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Sex-biased gene flow among elk in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem

June 1, 2014

We quantified patterns of population genetic structure to help understand gene flow among elk populations across the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. We sequenced 596 base pairs of the mitochondrial control region of 380 elk from eight populations. Analysis revealed high mitochondrial DNA variation within populations, averaging 13.0 haplotypes with high mean gene diversity (0.85). The genetic differentiation among populations for mitochondrial DNA was relatively high (FST  =  0.161; P  =  0.001) compared to genetic differentiation for nuclear microsatellite data (FST  =  0.002; P  =  0.332), which suggested relatively low female gene flow among populations. The estimated ratio of male to female gene flow (mm/mf  =  46) was among the highest we have seen reported for large mammals. Genetic distance (for mitochondrial DNA pairwise FST) was not significantly correlated with geographic (Euclidean) distance between populations (Mantel's r  =  0.274, P  =  0.168). Large mitochondrial DNA genetic distances (e.g., FST > 0.2) between some of the geographically closest populations (<65 km) suggested behavioral factors and/or landscape features might shape female gene flow patterns. Given the strong sex-biased gene flow, future research and conservation efforts should consider the sexes separately when modeling corridors of gene flow or predicting spread of maternally transmitted diseases. The growing availability of genetic data to compare male vs. female gene flow provides many exciting opportunities to explore the magnitude, causes, and implications of sex-biased gene flow likely to occur in many species.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2014
Title Sex-biased gene flow among elk in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem
DOI 10.3996/022012-JFWM-017
Authors Brian K. Hand, Shanyuan Chen, Neil Anderson, Albano Beja-Pereira, Paul C. Cross, Michael R. Ebinger, Hank Edwards, Robert A. Garrott, Marty D. Kardos, Matthew J. Kauffman, Erin L. Landguth, Arthur Middleton, Brandon M. Scurlock, P.J. White, Pete Zager, Michael K. Schwartz, Gordon Luikart
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management
Series Number
Index ID 70131494
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center