Nuclear and mitochondrial DNA analyses of golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos canadensis) from three areas in western North America; initial results and conservation implications

PLOS Current Outbreaks
By: , and 

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Abstract

Understanding the genetics of a population is a critical component of developing conservation strategies. We used archived tissue samples from golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos canadensis) in three geographic regions of western North America to conduct a preliminary study of the genetics of the North American subspecies, and to provide data for United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) decision-making for golden eagle management. We used a combination of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) D-loop sequences and 16 nuclear DNA (nDNA) microsatellite loci to investigate the extent of gene flow among our sampling areas in Idaho, California and Alaska and to determine if we could distinguish birds from the different geographic regions based on their genetic profiles. Our results indicate high genetic diversity, low genetic structure and high connectivity. Nuclear DNA Fst values between Idaho and California were low but significantly different from zero (0.026). Bayesian clustering methods indicated a single population, and we were unable to distinguish summer breeding residents from different regions. Results of the mtDNA AMOVA showed that most of the haplotype variation (97%) was within the geographic populations while 3% variation was partitioned among them. One haplotype was common to all three areas. One region-specific haplotype was detected in California and one in Idaho, but additional sampling is required to determine if these haplotypes are unique to those geographic areas or a sampling artifact. We discuss potential sources of the high gene flow for this species including natal and breeding dispersal, floaters, and changes in migratory behavior as a result of environmental factors such as climate change and habitat alteration. Our preliminary findings can help inform the USFWS in development of golden eagle management strategies and provide a basis for additional research into the complex dynamics of the North American subspecies.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Nuclear and mitochondrial DNA analyses of golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos canadensis) from three areas in western North America; initial results and conservation implications
Series title PLOS Current Outbreaks
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0164248
Volume 11
Issue 10
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher PLOS ONE
Contributing office(s) Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center
Description e0164248; 15 p.
Country United States
State Alaska, California
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N