Using molecular genetic markers that differ in mode of inheritance and rate of evolution, we examined levels and partitioning of genetic variation for seven nominal subspecies (11 breeding populations) of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) in western North America. Gene trees constructed from mtDNA control region sequence data show that subspecies of Canada Geese do not have distinct mtDNA. Large- and small-bodied forms of Canada Geese were highly diverged (0. 077 average sequence divergence) and represent monophyletic groups. A majority (65%) of 20 haplotypes resolved were observed in single breeding locales. However, within both large- and small-bodied forms certain haplotypes occurred across multiple subspecies. Population trees for both nuclear (microsatellites) and mitochondrial markers were generally concordant and provide resolution of population and subspecific relationships indicating incomplete lineage sorting. All populations and subspecies were genetically diverged, but to varying degrees. Analyses of molecular variance, nested-clade and coalescence-based analyses of mtDNA suggest that both historical (past fragmentation) and contemporary forces have been important in shaping current spatial genetic distributions. Gene flow appears to be ongoing though at different rates, even among currently recognized subspecies. The efficacy of current subspecific taxonomy is discussed in light of hypothesized historical vicariance and current demographic trends of management and conservation concern.
Additional publication details
Phylogeography of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) in western North America