|Rooney, Alejandro - Alex|
Submitted to: The Wildlife Society
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/10/2003
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: The majority of wildlife population genetics studies have focused on model species representing threatened or endangered populations. However, there are several species that exemplify remarkable "success stories" due to past conservation efforts, but have received little attention. White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) were nearly extirpated from the Southeastern U.S. during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Recovery programs were initiated during the 1930's and involved both protection of remaining stocks and transplants from other parts of the species' range. However, the impact of these management actions on the present genetic structure of white-tailed deer remains to be thoroughly investigated. We used 17 microsatellite DNA loci to assess genetic differentiation and diversity for 543 white-tailed deer representing 16 populations in Mississippi and 3 extra-state reference populations. There was significant genetic differentiation among all populations. The majority of genetic variation (greater than or equal to 93%) was contained within populations with no higher-order genetic structure. Patterns of genetic similarity and isolation by distance within Mississippi were not concordant with subspecies delineations or geographic proximity of populations. Some populations were genetically similar across large geographic distances and shared common stock sources, suggesting that transplanted deer had a lasting effect on their genetic composition. We detected evidence of past genetic bottlenecks in 11 of the 19 populations examined. However, despite experiencing genetic bottlenecks or founder events, allelic richness and heterozygosity were similar among populations. Other cervid species that experienced similar population recoveries during the past century have consistently lower and highly variable allelic richness and heterozygosity. White-tailed deer probably avoided loss of genetic diversity due to rapid attainment of large population size, high gene flow, and a mating system that promotes a high effective population size.