Conservation genetics of Roosevelt Elk in British Columbia

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Gazeley, Ian Frederick
University of Lethbridge. Faculty of Arts and Science
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Lethbridge, Alta. : University of Lethbridge, Dept. of Biological Sciences
Species reintroductions have the potential to cause bottleneck events resulting in increased genetic drift, reduced genetic diversity and increased inbreeding, with potentially negative fitness consequences. Wildlife managers must consider how a species’ ecology may affect its genetic diversity. Roosevelt elk, once widespread along the West Coast, were extirpated from the mainland and experienced a substantial population bottleneck on Vancouver Island. The species was reintroduced to the BC mainland in the 1980s, and their descendants used for subsequent reintroductions within the region. To understand genetic diversity in extant and reintroduced populations of Roosevelt elk, we analyzed genetic variation in 355 elk from 13 populations. Molecular analyses showed reduced genetic diversity, genetic isolation of southern Vancouver Island, increased genetic drift resulting in significant differentiation between source and reintroduced herds, and very low effective population size in multiple populations indicating a potential for inbreeding and associated negative fitness consequences.
Research Subject Categories::NATURAL SCIENCES::Biology::Organism biology::Systematics and phylogenetics , Animal population genetics , Animal populations -- British Columbia -- Research , Dissertations, Academic , Roosevelt elk -- British Columbia , Roosevelt elk -- Conservation -- British Columbia , Wildlife management , Wildlife recovery plans -- British Columbia