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Historic and current populations of black grouse in central Europe – evidence for rapid loss of genetic diversity
Dept Wildlife Ecology and Management, University Freiburg.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Ecology and Genetics, Population and Conservation Biology. (Jacob Höglund)
Dept of Animal Biology, Plant Biology and Ecology, Faculty of Science, University of A Coruña.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine.
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2011 (English)Article in journal (Other academic) Submitted
Abstract [en]

Black grouse (Tetrao tetrix) in central Europe have undergone a severe contraction of their range with only a few small isolated remaining populations. We here compare genetic diversity of two contemporary populations (Sallandse Heuvelrug, Netherlands and Lüneburger Heide, Germany) with historic samples from the same range collected decades ago. We use both neutral and MHC markers to test whether present small and highly fragmented populations hold lower genetic diversity compared to the former larger population. For this we applied three different types of genetic markers: nine microsatellites and 21 SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms) which both have been found to be neutral, and two functional MHC (Major Histocompatibility Complex) genes that are presumably under selection. The contemporary small isolated populations displayed lower neutral genetic diversity compared to the historic samples. A similar trend was found for genotypes at MHC class II loci. Furthermore, population structure was more pronounced among contemporary populations compared to historic populations for microsatellites and SNPs. This effect was not as distinct for MHC which suggests that MHC has been subjected to balancing selection in the past, a process upholding genetic variation and minimizing population structure for such markers. As predicted from theory, drift is the most potent evolutionary processes affecting genetic variation at small population sizes. Genetic differentiation among present populations highlights the strong affects of population decline and habitat loss due to anthropogenic land use changes on genetic structure of natural populations. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
National Category
Ecology Evolutionary Biology Genetics
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-160037OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-160037DiVA: diva2:447861
Available from: 2011-10-13 Created: 2011-10-13 Last updated: 2015-06-24Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. European Black Grouse: MHC Genetic Diversity and Population Structure
Open this publication in new window or tab >>European Black Grouse: MHC Genetic Diversity and Population Structure
2011 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Black grouse Tetrao tetrix is a bird species composed of large, continuous as well as severely reduced and fragmented populations, making it an optimal species to investigate how genetic diversity is affected by habitat fragmentation. I have focused on genetic diversity in the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) to measure the ability of the black grouse to respond to environmental changes.

I partly characterized MHC class II in black grouse and found striking similarities with chicken MHC class II. I demonstrated that black grouse possess a similar compact MHC as chicken with few MHC class II B (BLB) and Y (YLB) loci. I did not find evidence of balancing selection in YLB so I concentrated further studies on BLB.

I developed a PCR-based screening method for amplifying and separating expressed BLB alleles in European black grouse populations. Small fragmented populations had lost neutral genetic diversity (based on microsatellites and SNPs) compared to samples from the historical distribution and contemporary large populations. There was also a trend, albeit less pronounced, for reduced MHC diversity in these populations. Neutral markers in small isolated populations were affected by increased levels of genetic drift and were therefore genetically differentiated compared to other populations. MHC markers on the other hand, were not subjected to genetic drift to the same extent probably due a long historic process of balancing selection.

Inferences of heterozygosity and evolutionary patterns as well as detailed correlations to reproductive success and diseases cannot be performed until MHC can be amplified in a locus-specific manner. Therefore, I developed a single locus sequence-based typing method for independently amplifying MHC class II B loci (BLB1 and BLB2). I found that BLB1 and BLB2 were duplicated in a common ancestor to chickens and black grouse and that these loci are subjected to homogenizing concerted evolution due to inter-genetic exchange between loci after species divergence.  I could also verify that both BLB1 and BLB2 were transcribed in black grouse and under balancing selection.

This collection of work has significance for future conservation of black grouse as well as research and management of zoonotic diseases.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2011. 59 p.
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 869
Major Histocompatibility Complex, BLB, balancing selection, concerted evolution, bottleneck, fragmentation, 3'UTR
National Category
Evolutionary Biology Ecology Genetics
Research subject
Biology with specialization in Population Biology
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-160042 (URN)978-91-554-8188-9 (ISBN)
Public defence
2011-11-25, Zootissalen, Evolutionary Biology Centre, Villavägen 9, Uppsala, 09:15 (English)
Available from: 2011-11-04 Created: 2011-10-13 Last updated: 2011-11-10Bibliographically approved

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