Rangewide genetic analysis of Lesser Prairie-Chicken reveals population structure, range expansion, and possible introgression

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  • The distribution of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) has been markedly reduced due to loss and fragmentation of habitat. Portions of the historical range, however, have been recolonized and even expanded due to planting of conservation reserve program (CRP) fields that provide favorable vegetation structure for Lesser Prairie-Chickens. The source population(s) feeding the range expansion is unknown, yet has resulted in overlap between Lesser and Greater Prairie-Chickens (T. cupido) increasing the potential for hybridization. Our objectives were to characterize connectivity and genetic diversity among populations, identify source population(s) of recent range expansion, and examine hybridization with the Greater Prairie-Chicken. We analyzed 640 samples from across the range using 13 microsatellites. We identified three to four populations corresponding largely to ecoregions. The Shinnery Oak Prairie and Sand Sagebrush Prairie represented genetically distinct populations (F (ST) > 0.034 and F (ST) > 0.023 respectively). The Shortgrass/CRP Mosaic and Mixed Grass ecoregions appeared admixed (F (ST) = 0.009). Genetic diversity was similar among ecoregions and N (e) ranged from 142 (95 % CI 99-236) for the Shortgrass/CRP Mosaic to 296 (95 % CI 233-396) in the Mixed Grass Prairie. No recent migration was detected among ecoregions, except asymmetric dispersal from both the Mixed Grass Prairie and to a lesser extent the Sand Sagebrush Prairie north into adjacent Shortgrass/CRP Mosaic (m = 0.207, 95 % CI 0.116-0.298, m = 0.097, 95 % CI 0.010-0.183, respectively). Indices investigating potential hybridization in the Shortgrass/CRP Mosaic revealed that six of the 13 individuals with hybrid phenotypes were significantly admixed suggesting hybridization. Continued monitoring of diversity within and among ecoregions is warranted as are actions promoting genetic connectivity and range expansion.
  • Keywords: Spatial genetic population structure, Genetic diversity, Tympanuchus pallidicinctus, Gene flow, Hybridization
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  • Oyler-McCance, S. J., DeYoung, R. W., Fike, J. A., Hagen, C. A., Johnson, J. A., Larsson, L. C., & Patten, M. A. (2016). Rangewide genetic analysis of Lesser Prairie-Chicken reveals population structure, range expansion, and possible introgression. Conservation Genetics, 17(3), 643-660. doi:10.1007/s10592-016-0812-y
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  • 17
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  • 3
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  • Funding for this project was provided by the U.S. Geological Survey. Support for C.A. Hagen was provided by Grant Agreement #J1730A between Oregon State University and Pheasants Forever. The Sutton Avian Research Center gratefully acknowledges support from federal and state agencies, corporate and private foundations, and private individuals.
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