Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on the Delmarva Peninsula, Maryland, USA has been the wintering area of a small population of Lesser Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens caerulescens; LSGO) since the 1930s. Snow Geese primarily pair in wintering areas and gene flow could be restricted between this and other LSGO wintering populations. Winter pair formation also could facilitate interbreeding with sympatric but morphologically differentiated Greater Snow Geese (C. c. atlantica; GSGO).We sequenced 658 bp of the mitochondrial DNA control region for 68 Snow Geese from East Coast and Louisiana wintering populations to examine the level of genetic differentiation among populations and subspecies. We found no evidence for genetic differentiation between LSGO populations but, consistent with morphological differences, LSGO and GSGO were significantly differentiated. We also found a lack of genetic differentiation between different LSGO morphotypes from Louisiana. We examined available banding data and found the breeding range of Delmarva LSGO overlaps extensively with LSGO that winter in Louisiana, and documented movements between wintering populations. Our results suggest the Delmarva population of LSGO is not a unique population unit apart from Mid-Continent Snow Geese. ?? 2009 by the Wilson Ornithological Society.
Additional publication details
Genetic differentiation between sympatric and allopatric wintering populations of Snow Geese