Decline of heterozygosity in a large but isolated population: a 45-year examination of moose genetic diversity on Isle Royale

Renae L. Sattler, Janna R. Willoughby, Bradley J. Swanson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

Wildlife conservation and management approaches typically focus on demographic measurements to assess population viability over both short and long periods. However, genetic diversity is an important predictor of long term population vitality. We investi- gated the pattern of change in genetic diversity in a large and likely isolated moose (Alces alces) population on Isle Royale (Lake Superior) from 1960-2005. We characterized samples, partitioned into five different 5-year periods, using nine microsatellite loci and a portion of the mtDNA control region. We also simulated the moose population to generate a theoretical backdrop of genetic diversity change. In the empirical data, we found that the number of alleles was consistently low and that observed heterozygosity notably declined from 1960 to 2005 (p = 0.08, R2 = 0.70). Furthermore, inbreeding coefficients approximately doubled from 0.08 in 1960-65 to 0.16 in 2000-05. Finally, we found that the empirical rate of observed heterozygosity decline was faster than the rate of observed heterozygosity loss in our simulations. Combined, these data suggest that genetic drift and inbreeding occurred in the Isle Royale moose populations over the study period, leading to significant losses in heterozygosity. Although inbreeding can be mitigated by migration, we found no evidence to support the occurrence of recent migrants into the population using analysis of ourmtDNAhaplotypes nor microsatellite data. Therefore, the Isle Royale moose population illustrates that even large populations are subjected to inbreeding in the absence of migration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1077173584
JournalPeerJ
Volume2017
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2017

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