Population decline in red-legged kittiwakes (Rissa brevirostris) over recent decades has necessitated the collection of information on the distribution of genetic variation within and among colonies for implementation of suitable management policies. Here we present a preliminary study of the extent of genetic structuring and gene flow among the three principal breeding locations of red-legged kittiwakes using the hypervariable Domain I of the mitochondrial control region. Genetic variation was high relative to other species of seabirds, and was similar among locations. Analysis of molecular variance indicated that population genetic structure was statistically significant, and nested clade analysis suggested that kittiwakes breeding on Bering Island maybe genetically isolated from those elsewhere. However, phylogeographic structure was weak. Although this analysis involved only a single locus and a small number of samples, it suggests that red-legged kittiwakes probably constitute a single evolutionary significant unit; the possibility that they constitute two management units requires further investigation.
Additional publication details
Population differentiation in the red-legged kittiwake (Rissa brevirostris) as revealed by mitochondrial DNA