Six south Florida populations of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis) were sampled to examine genetic diversity and population structure in the southernmost portion of the species' range relative to 14 previously sampled populations from throughout the species range. Random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) analyses were used to evaluate the populations (n= 161 individuals, 13 primers, one band/primer). Results suggested that south Florida populations have significant among-population genetic differentiation (FST= 0.17, P < 0.000), although gene flow may be adequate to offset drift (Nm= 1.26). Comparison of Florida populations with others sampled indicated differentiation was less in Florida (FST for all populations = 0.21). Cluster analyses of all 20 populations did not reflect complete geographical predictions, although clustering of distant populations resulted in a significant correlation between genetic distance and geographical distance. Overall, results suggest populations in south Florida, similar to the remainder of the species, have low genetic diversity and high population fragmentation. Exact clustering of distant populations supports the ability of RAPDs to differentiate populations accurately. Our results further support past management recommendations that translocations of birds among geographically proximate populations is preferable to movement of birds between distant populations.
Additional publication details
Population structure of red-cockaded woodpeckers (Picoides borealis) in south Florida: RAPDs revisited