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Small-scale genetic structure in an endangered wetland specialist: possible effects of landscape change and population recovery

November 1, 2017

The effects of anthropogenic landscape change on genetic population structure are well studied, but the temporal and spatial scales at which genetic structure can develop, especially in taxa with high dispersal capabilities like birds, are less well understood. We investigated population structure in the Hawaiian gallinule (Gallinula galeata sandvicensis), an endangered wetland specialist bird on the island of O`ahu (Hawai`i, USA). Hawaiian gallinules have experienced a gradual population recovery from near extinction in the 1950s, and have recolonized wetlands on O`ahu in the context of a rapidly urbanizing landscape. We genotyped 152 Hawaiian gallinules at 12 microsatellite loci and sequenced a 520 base-pair fragment of the ND2 region of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from individuals captured at 13 wetland locations on O`ahu in 2014–2016. We observed moderate to high genetic structuring (overall microsatellite FST = 0.098, mtDNA FST = 0.248) among populations of Hawaiian gallinules occupying wetlands at very close geographic proximity (e.g., 1.5–55 km). Asymmetry in gene flow estimates suggests that Hawaiian gallinules may have persisted in 2–3 strongholds which served as source populations that recolonized more recently restored habitats currently supporting large numbers of birds. Our results highlight that genetic structure can develop in taxa that are expanding their range after severe population decline, and that biologically significant structuring can occur over small geographic distances, even in avian taxa.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2018
Title Small-scale genetic structure in an endangered wetland specialist: possible effects of landscape change and population recovery
DOI 10.1007/s10592-017-1020-0
Authors Charles B. van Rees, J. Michael Reed, Robert E. Wilson, Jared G. Underwood, Sarah A. Sonsthagen
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Conservation Genetics
Series Number
Index ID 70192606
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Biology WTEB

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