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Farmed arctic foxes on the Fennoscandian mountain tundra: implications for conservation
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology. (Svenska fjällrävsprojektet)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9707-5206
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.
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2009 (English)In: Animal Conservation, ISSN 1367-9430, E-ISSN 1469-1795, Vol. 12, no 5, 434-444 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Hybridization between wild and captive-bred individuals is a serious conservation issue that requires measures to prevent negative effects. Such measures are, however, often considered controversial by the public, especially when concerning charismatic species. One of the threats to the critically endangered Fennoscandian arctic fox Alopex lagopus is hybridization with escaped farm foxes, conveying a risk of outbreeding depression through loss of local adaptations to the lemming cycle. In this study, we investigate the existence of escaped farm foxes among wild arctic foxes and whether hybridization has occurred in the wild. We analysed mitochondrial control region sequences and 10 microsatellite loci in samples from free-ranging foxes and compared them with reference samples of known farm foxes and true Fennoscandian arctic foxes. We identified the farm fox specific mitochondrial haplotype H9 in 25 out of 182 samples, 21 of which had been collected within or nearby the wild subpopulation on Hardangervidda in south-western Norway. Genetic analyses of museum specimens collected on Hardangervidda (1897–1975) suggested that farm fox genotypes have recently been introduced to the area. Principal component analysis as well as both model- and frequency-based analyses of microsatellite data imply that the free-ranging H9s were farm foxes rather than wild arctic foxes and that the entire Hardangervidda population consisted of farm foxes or putative hybrids. We strongly recommend removal of farm foxes and hybrids in the wild to prevent genetic pollution of the remaining wild subpopulations of threatened arctic foxes.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. Vol. 12, no 5, 434-444 p.
Keyword [en]
hybridization, genetic pollution, outbreeding depression, Alopex lagopus, captive
National Category
Biological Sciences
Research subject
Animal Ecology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-29064DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-1795.2009.00269.xISI: 000270140600008OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-29064DiVA: diva2:229028
Available from: 2009-08-10 Created: 2009-08-10 Last updated: 2017-12-13
In thesis
1. Genetic structure in the North- population connectivity and social organization in the Arctic fox
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Genetic structure in the North- population connectivity and social organization in the Arctic fox
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Genetic variation is distributed on different spatial and temporal scales, reflecting the ecological and geographical complexity in the habitat. In this thesis, the primary objective was to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the genetic structuring in the Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) and to identify the underlying factors forming these structures. Using microsatellites, presence of sea ice was identified as the main factor determining the large-scale genetic structure in the Arctic fox. Genetic distinctiveness was demonstrated for populations surrounded by year-round open water (i.e. Iceland and Scandinavia) and among areas connected by sea ice, genetic differentiation was mainly determined by the geographic distance (PAPER I). Movement across the sea ice was influenced by fluctuations in resource abundance caused by the lemming cycle. As a consequence of low lemming abundance, long-distance movement from inland habitats into coastal habitats influenced the genetic structure on a temporal scale (PAPER II). Although the global connectivity was determined by few underlying factors, local population structures were influenced by population-specific historical, demographic and ecological factors (PAPER II, III, IV). Geographical barriers determined genetic structure within the isolated population on Iceland (PAPER III), whereas immigration influenced the local genetic structure in both Svalbard (PAPER II) and Scandinavia (PAPER IV). When population size is low, few immigration events cause rapid changes in genetic composition (PAPER IV), while immigration had a less pronounced effect in larger populations (PAPER II). On the social scale, high flexibility regarding the composition of social groups was recorded as a likely response to local habitat conditions (PAPER V). Complex social groups were more common in habitats with high resource availability and presence of predators than in habitats without predation. This thesis illustrates the importance of ecology and demography forming genetic structure at different scales, and highlights the Arctic fox vulnerability to the ongoing climate change.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, 2010. 19 p.
National Category
Biological Sciences
Research subject
Animal Ecology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-43529 (URN)978-91-7447-155-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2010-11-26, Magnélisalen, Kemiska övningslaboratoriet, Svante Arrhenius väg 16 B, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
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At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 1: In press. Paper 2: Manuscript. Paper 5: Manuscript. Available from: 2010-11-03 Created: 2010-10-19 Last updated: 2014-10-13Bibliographically approved

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