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Population structure in a critically endangered arctic fox population: does genetics matter?
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8270-7613
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5496-4727
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2006 (English)In: Molecular Ecology, ISSN 0962-1083, E-ISSN 1365-294X, Vol. 15, no 10, 2809-2819 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) in Scandinavia is classified as critically endangered after having gone through a severe decline in population size in the beginning of the 20th century, from which it has failed to recover despite more than 65 years of protection. Arctic foxes have a high dispersal rate and often disperse over long distances, suggesting that there was probably little population differentiation within Scandinavia prior to the bottleneck. It is, however, possible that the recent decline in population size has led to a decrease in dispersal and an increase in population fragmentation. To examine this, we used 10 microsatellite loci to analyse genetic variation in 150 arctic foxes from Scandinavia and Russia. The results showed that the arctic fox in Scandinavia presently is subdivided into four populations, and that the Kola Peninsula and northwest Russia together form a large fifth population. Current dispersal between the populations seemed to be very low, but genetic variation within them was relatively high. This and the relative F-ST values among the populations are consistent with a model of recent fragmentation within Scandinavia. Since the amount of genetic variation is high within the populations, but the populations are small and isolated, demographic stochasticity seems to pose a higher threat to the populations' persistence than inbreeding depression and low genetic variation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2006. Vol. 15, no 10, 2809-2819 p.
Keyword [en]
Alopex lagopus; assignment; gene flow; microsatellites; migration; relatedness
National Category
Natural Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-29682DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2006.02983.xISBN: 0962-1083OAI: diva2:234730
Available from: 2009-09-10 Created: 2009-09-10 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, LoveElmhagen, BodilAngerbjörn, Anders
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