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Phylogeography of the white-tailed eagle, a generalist with large dispersal capacity
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Evolution, Genomics and Systematics, Evolutionary Biology. (Conservation genetics)
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2007 (English)In: Journal of Biogeography, ISSN 0305-0270, E-ISSN 1365-2699, Vol. 34, no 7, 1193-1206 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Aim Late Pleistocene glacial changes had a major impact on many boreal and temperate taxa, and this impact can still be detected in the present-day phylogeographic structure of these taxa. However, only minor effects are expected in species with generalist habitat requirements and high dispersal capability. One such species is the white-tailed eagle, Haliaeetus albicilla, and we therefore tested for the expected weak population structure at a continental level in this species. This also allowed us to describe phylogeographic patterns, and to deduce Ice Age refugia and patterns of postglacial recolonization of Eurasia.

Location Breeding populations from the easternmost Nearctic (Greenland) and across the Palaearctic (Iceland, continental Europe, central and eastern Asia, and Japan).

Methods Sequencing of a 500 base-pair fragment of the mitochondrial DNA control region in 237 samples from throughout the distribution range.

Results Our analysis revealed pronounced phylogeographic structure. Overall, low genetic variability was observed across the entire range. Haplotypes clustered in two distinct haplogroups with a predominantly eastern or western distribution, and extensive overlap in Europe. These two major lineages diverged during the late Pleistocene. The eastern haplogroup showed a pattern of rapid population expansion and colonization of Eurasia around the end of the Pleistocene. The western haplogroup had lower diversity and was absent from the populations in eastern Asia. These results suggest survival during the last glaciation in two refugia, probably located in central and western Eurasia, followed by postglacial population expansion and admixture. Relatively high genetic diversity was observed in northern regions that were ice-covered during the last glacial maximum. This, and phylogenetic relationships between haplotypes encountered in the north, indicates substantial population expansion at high latitudes. Areas of glacial meltwater runoff and proglacial lakes could have provided suitable habitats for such population growth.

Main conclusions This study shows that glacial climate fluctuations had a substantial impact on white-tailed eagles, both in terms of distribution and demography. These results suggest that even species with large dispersal capabilities and relatively broad habitat requirements were strongly affected by the Pleistocene climatic shifts.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2007. Vol. 34, no 7, 1193-1206 p.
Keyword [en]
Control region, Eurasia, Falconiformes, Haliaeetus albicilla, mtDNA, population expansion, postglacial colonization
National Category
Biological Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-94557DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2699.2007.01697.xISI: 000248179800008OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-94557DiVA: diva2:168444
Available from: 2006-05-10 Created: 2006-05-10 Last updated: 2011-01-26Bibliographically 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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