In my experience: Mitochondrial DNA in wildlife taxonomy and conservation biology: Cautionary notes

Wildlife Society Bulletin



Several recently published papers discussed the importance of systematics (the study of evolutionary and genetic relationships among organisms) and taxonomy (the naming and classification of organisms) for managing wildlife (Ryder 1986, Avise 1989, Amato 1991, O'Brien and Mayr 1991, Dowling et al. 1992), Often, classification below the species level is needed; for example, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 applies to local populations and subspecies as well as species. Conservation efforts may focus below the species level because of concerns about the fitness, evolutionary potentials, and locally adapted gene pools of natural populations (Soulé 1986, Hedrick and Milller 1992). This can be considered the genetic component of biodiversity.

Recent systematic studies with wildlife management applications have used modern molecular genetic methods. Analyses of a specific molecular marker, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), have been used in many of these studies (e.g., Shields and Wilson 1987, Avise and Nelson 1989, O'Brien et al. 1990, Wayne and Jenks 1991, Cronin 1992), However, there are limitations to the use of mtDNA in systematics (e.g., Overden et al., 1987, Pamilo and Nei 1988, Dowling et al. 1992). In my experience as a geneticist working with wildlife biologists, I have found a need for clarification of the use and limitations of modern molecular genetics. I specifically discuss the limitations of mtDNA data in systematic assessments of wildlife at and below the species level.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title In my experience: Mitochondrial DNA in wildlife taxonomy and conservation biology: Cautionary notes
Series title Wildlife Society Bulletin
Volume 21
Issue 3
Year Published 1993
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Alaska Biological Science Center, Alaska Science Center
Description 10 p.
First page 339
Last page 348
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