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Bottlenecked but long-lived: high genetic diversity retained in white-tailed eagles upon recovery from population decline
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Evolution, Genomics and Systematics, Evolutionary Biology. (Conservation Genetics)
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2006 (English)In: Biology Letters, ISSN 1744-9561, E-ISSN 1744-957X, Vol. 2, no 2, 316-319 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Most of the white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) populations in Europe experienced dramatic declines during the twentieth century. However, owing to intense conservation actions and the ban of DDT and other persistent pollutants, populations are currently recovering. We show that despite passing through demographic bottlenecks, white-tailed eagle populations have retained significant levels of genetic diversity. Both genetic and ringing data indicate that migration between populations has not been a major factor for the maintenance of genetic variability. We argue that the long generation time of eagles has acted as an intrinsic buffer against loss of genetic diversity, leading to a shorter effective time of the experienced bottleneck. Notably, conservation actions taken in several small sub-populations have ensured the preservation of a larger proportion of the total genetic diversity than if conservation had focused on the population stronghold in Norway. For conservation programmes targeting other endangered, long-lived species, our results highlight the possibility for local retention of high genetic diversity in isolated remnant populations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2006. Vol. 2, no 2, 316-319 p.
Keyword [en]
bottleneck, conservation genetics, generation time, microsatellites, mitochondrial DNA, single large or several small
National Category
Biological Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-94556DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2006.0453ISI: 000241862500041PubMedID: 17148392OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-94556DiVA: diva2:168443
Available from: 2006-05-10 Created: 2006-05-10 Last updated: 2011-05-12Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Conservation Genetics of the White-Tailed Eagle
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Conservation Genetics of the White-Tailed Eagle
2006 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The white-tailed eagle is a formerly threatened raptor that is commonly used as a flagship and indicator species in conservation work. This thesis uses molecular genetic methods to study sex determination of nestlings, genetic variability, population structure and phylogeography of the white-tailed eagle.

Fourteen microsatellite markers were developed and tested for the white-tailed eagle.

A method to sex white-tailed eagle nestlings in the field is presented. The method is based on just one tarsus measure, and is suitable for situations where a single person is handling the nestlings alone in a treetop.

Most European white-tailed eagle populations underwent extreme declines during the 20th century. The results presented here show that bottlenecked populations have maintained significant levels of genetic diversity. Gene flow between regions is not a main explanation for this, as indicated by both genetic and ringing data. Instead, the long generation time of white-tailed eagles has acted as an intrinsic buffer against rapid loss of genetic diversity. Additionally, local conservation led to protection of more genetic diversity than if conservation had focused on the large remnant population in Norway.

Mitochondrial DNA of white-tailed eagles is structured in two main clades with a predominantly eastern and western Eurasian distribution. The clades likely correspond to separate Ice Age refugia but do not grant classification as evolutionary significant units given their current extensive overlap across large parts of Eurasia.

Microsatellite variation was studied in populations across Eurasia. Variability was rather constant across the continent, but clearly lower on Iceland and Greenland. This is best explained by founder effects during their colonisation, but only weak bottlenecks during colonisation of and persistence on the continent. Current population differentiation between Europe and eastern Eurasia is not compatible with a zero gene flow model but requires some amount of gene flow over evolutionary time scales.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2006. 57 p.
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 190
Biology, Haliaeetus albicilla, microsatellites, mtDNA, molecular sexing, population structure, bottleneck, phylogeography, raptors, Biologi
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-6911 (URN)91-554-6581-1 (ISBN)
Public defence
2006-05-31, Zootissalen, EBC, Villavägen 9, Uppsala, 13:15
Available from: 2006-05-10 Created: 2006-05-10Bibliographically approved

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