The influence of latitude, geographic distance, and habitat discontinuities on genetic variation in a high latitude montane species

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Hindley, John A.
Graham, Brendan A.
Pulgarin-R., P. C.
Burg, Theresa M.
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Nature Publishing Group
Examining the factors that influence contemporary genetic patterns is important given the alarming rate at which natural environments are changing. In particular habitat fragmentation and climate change are expected to influence the distribution and diversity of natural populations. In this study we used both mitochondrial control region (mtDNA) and microsatellite data to answer the following questions about genetic diversity and divergence in mountain chickadees (Poecile gambeli) a resident bird species in western North America: (1) Do populations exhibit similar levels of genetic diversity across the range? (2) What is the genetic affinity of western populations in Oregon and Washington? (3) Do genetic patterns exhibit isolation by distance, or are genetic patterns more heavily influenced by habitat discontinuity? We tested the effects of isolation by distance and habitat distribution on genetic structure by analyzing 266 samples from 17 sites across western Canada and the United States. We found a near significant relationship between genetic diversity and latitude, however, our results indicate that overall, latitude is not a strong predictor of genetic diversity. Our analyses of populations in Oregon and Washington revealed a mismatch between patterns detected with mtDNA and microsatellite data. In particular, Washington clustered with the Coast Range/Cascades/Rocky Mountain mtDNA group, but with populations in southern Oregon/California based on microsatellite data. These results suggest the presence of a contact zone in Washington between the two mtDNA clades Coast Range/Cascades/Rocky Mountain and southern Oregon/California clades. Finally, our study revealed a greater effect of isolation by distance than isolation by habitat for both mtDNA and microsatellite data. Overall the isolation by distance signal was greater for mtDNA than microsatellite patterns. The greater signal of isolation by distance on mtDNA patterns likely reflects the strong effects of Pleistocene glaciations in shaping genetic patterns in western North America.
Open access article. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International LIcense (CC BY 4.0) applies
Habitat discontinuities , Mountain chickadees , mtDNA patterns , Rocky Mountain populations , South central California , Isolation by distance , Microsatellite data , Latitude , Geographic distance
Hindley, J. A., Graham, B. A., Pulgarin-R., P. C., & Burg, T. M. (2018). The influence of latitude, geographical distance, and habitat discontinuotoes on genetic variation in a high latitude montane species. Scientific Reports, 8, Article 11846.