Genetic diversity, effective population size, and structure among black bear populations in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley, USA

Conservation Genetics
By: , and 

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Abstract

Multiple small populations of American black bears Ursus americanus, including the recently delisted Louisiana black bear subspecies U. a. luteolus, occupy a fragmented landscape in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley, USA (LMAV). Populations include bears native to the LMAV, bears translocated from Minnesota during the 1960s, and recently reintroduced and colonizing populations sourced from within the LMAV. We estimated population structure, gene flow, and genetic parameters important to conservation of small populations using genotypes at 23 microsatellite markers for 265 bears from seven populations. We inferred five genetic clusters corresponding to the following populations: White River and western Mississippi, Tensas River and Three Rivers, Upper Atchafalaya, Lower Atchafalaya, and Minnesota. Upper Atchafalaya was suggested as the product of Minnesota-sourced translocations, but those populations have since diverged, likely because of a founder effect followed by genetic drift and isolation. An admixture zone recently developed in northeastern Louisiana and western Mississippi between migrants from White River and Tensas River, resulting in a Wahlund effect. However, gene flow among most populations has been limited and considerable genetic differentiation accumulated (global FST = 0.22), particularly among the three Louisiana black bear populations that existed when federal listing occurred. Consistent with previous bottlenecks, founder effects, and persisting isolation, all LMAV bear populations had low genetic diversity (AR = 2.08–4.81; HE = 0.36–0.63) or small effective population size (NE = 3–49). Translocating bears among populations as part of a regional genetic restoration program may help improve genetic diversity and increase effective population sizes.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Genetic diversity, effective population size, and structure among black bear populations in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley, USA
Series title Conservation Genetics
DOI 10.1007/s10592-018-1075-6
Volume 19
Issue 5
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center
Description 13 p.
First page 1055
Last page 1067
Country United States
Other Geospatial Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley