Comparative population structure of cavity-nesting sea ducks

The Auk
By: , and 



A growing collection of mtDNA genetic information from waterfowl species across North America suggests that larger-bodied cavity-nesting species exhibit greater levels of population differentiation than smaller-bodied congeners. Although little is known about nest-cavity availability for these species, one hypothesis to explain differences in population structure is reduced dispersal tendency of larger-bodied cavity-nesting species due to limited abundance of large cavities. To investigate this hypothesis, we examined population structure of three cavity-nesting waterfowl species distributed across much of North America: Barrow's Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica), Common Goldeneye (B. clangula), and Bufflehead (B. albeola). We compared patterns of population structure using both variation in mtDNA control-region sequences and band-recovery data for the same species and geographic regions. Results were highly congruent between data types, showing structured population patterns for Barrow's and Common Goldeneye but not for Bufflehead. Consistent with our prediction, the smallest cavity-nesting species, the Bufflehead, exhibited the lowest level of population differentiation due to increased dispersal and gene flow. Results provide evidence for discrete Old and New World populations of Common Goldeneye and for differentiation of regional groups of both goldeneye species in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, and the eastern coast of North America. Results presented here will aid management objectives that require an understanding of population delineation and migratory connectivity between breeding and wintering areas. Comparative studies such as this one highlight factors that may drive patterns of genetic diversity and population trends.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Comparative population structure of cavity-nesting sea ducks
Series title The Auk
DOI 10.1642/AUK-13-071.1
Volume 131
Issue 2
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher American Ornithological Society
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center Biology WTEB
Description 13 p.
First page 195
Last page 207
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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