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Population history and genetic structure of a circumpolar species: the arctic fox
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8270-7613
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2005 (English)In: Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, ISSN 0024-4066, E-ISSN 1095-8312, Vol. 84, no 1, 79-89 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The circumpolar arctic fox Alopex lagopus thrives in cold climates and has a high migration rate involving long-distance movements. Thus, it differs from many temperate taxa that were subjected to cyclical restriction in glacial refugia during the Ice Ages. We investigated population history and genetic structure through mitochondrial control region variation in 191 arctic foxes from throughout the arctic. Several haplotypes had a Holarctic distribution and no phylogeographical structure was found. Furthermore, there was no difference in haplotype diversity between populations inhabiting previously glaciated and unglaciated regions. This suggests current gene flow among the studied populations, with the exception of those in Iceland, which is surrounded by year-round open water. Arctic foxes have often been separated into two ecotypes: ‘lemming’ and ‘coastal’. An analysis of molecular variance suggested particularly high gene flow among populations of the ‘lemming’ ecotype. This could be explained by their higher migration rate and reduced fitness in migrants between ecotypes. A mismatch analysis indicated a sudden expansion in population size around 118 000 BP, which coincides with the last interglacial. We propose that glacial cycles affected the arctic fox in a way opposite to their effect on temperate species, with interglacials leading to short-term isolation in northern refugia.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2005. Vol. 84, no 1, 79-89 p.
Keyword [en]
Alopex lagopus, bottleneck, ecology, gene flow, mitochondrial DNA, phylogeography
National Category
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-24611DOI: 10.1111/j.1095-8312.2005.00415.xOAI: diva2:197928
Available from: 2005-11-05 Created: 2005-11-05 Last updated: 2014-10-13Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Distribution and abundance of genetic variation in the arctic fox
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Distribution and abundance of genetic variation in the arctic fox
2005 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis investigates how changes in population size and spatial movements of individuals have shaped the distribution and abundance of neutral genetic variation in the arctic fox. This is done through mitochondrial and microsatellite DNA analyses on samples covering most of the species’ distribution, but with special emphasis on Scandinavia. On the species level, nucleotide diversity was relatively low, which indicated a historical expansion in population size in connection with the onset of the last Ice Age. It is thus possible that the glacial cycles have affected the arctic fox, and other cold-adapted species, in a way opposite to their effect on temperate species. Gene flow seemed to be high among arctic fox populations on a circumpolar scale, especially between populations where lemmings are the main food source, which could be explained by the spatial synchrony in lemming fluctuations. In Scandinavia, the arctic fox went through a severe demographic bottleneck in the beginning of the 20th century. Although some genetic variation was lost during this bottleneck, the loss was much smaller than expected, probably due to post-bottleneck gene flow from Russia. The arctic fox in Scandinavia is divided into four relatively isolated populations. Within each population, dispersal seemed to be high despite the high availability of empty territories close to natal dens, which supported the hypothesis that lemming fluctuations influence arctic fox dispersal. Genetic analyses on samples collected between 1989 and 2004 indicated an ongoing genetic drift and inbreeding within the Scandinavian populations. Furthermore, individual genetic variation was negatively associated with fitness, which could be attributed to an ongoing inbreeding depression. Analyses on faecal samples suggested that arctic foxes move higher up in the mountains and farther from the tree-line during summer compared to winter. This seasonal shift in distribution is probably caused by interspecific competition from the red fox, which is likely to be higher during summer due to red fox predation on arctic fox cubs. The results presented in this thesis have several implications for the conservation of the Scandinavian arctic fox. The finding of four isolated populations within Scandinavia and an ongoing inbreeding depression suggests that the risk of extinction is higher than previously thought. Conservation actions need to be taken in all populations to be effective, and could include genetic restoration through translocation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Zoologiska institutionen, 2005. 32 p.
population genetics, DNA, ecology, population history, gene flow, Alopex lagopus
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-726 (URN)91-7155-161-1 (ISBN)
Public defence
2005-12-09, sal G, Arrheniuslaboratorierna, Svante Arrhenius väg 14-18, Stockholm, 10:00
Available from: 2005-11-05 Created: 2005-11-05 Last updated: 2011-02-28Bibliographically approved

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Dalén, LoveAngerbjörn, Anders
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