The Delmarva fox squirrel, Sciurus niger cinereus, is a federally listed endangered subspecies whose range has been reduced by 90%. In an attempt to increase both population size and range, translocation sites were established beginning in the 1960's by moving squirrels from the natural range to sites outside the current range. Although translocations have served as the primary component of the DFS recovery program, there has been very little post-release examination of the genetics of the translocation sites. In this study, we developed ten microsatellite loci, screened the three polymorphic loci, and sequenced a 330 bp fragment of the mitochondrial control region in order to assess levels of genetic variation in natural and translocated regions of Delmarva fox squirrels and to compare them to Southeastern fox squirrels (S. n. niger). Although we found low levels of microsatellite polymorphism, there were no differences in heterozygosity between natural and translocated regions, or between Delmarva and Southeastern fox squirrels. We found high levels of polymorphism in the mitochondrial control region. Our patterns of haplotype diversity suggest incomplete lineage sorting of the two subspecies. In general, our data suggest that the current levels of genetic variation in the translocated sites are representative of those found in the natural population, and we encourage the continued use of translocations as a major component of Delmarva fox squirrel recovery.
Additional publication details
Genetic variation in natural and translocated populations of the endangered Delmarva fox squirrel (Sciurus niger cinereus)