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Studies of declining populations - temporal genetic analyses of two arctic mammals
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Many populations and species are threatened with extinction today. Understanding the extinction process and the factors behind population decline is therefore important. In this thesis, genetic analyses were performed on temporally spaced samples to investigate the demographic history and genetic effects of population reduction of two species: the arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) and the woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius). We used ancient DNA techniques to measure genetic variation in both mitochondrial DNA and microsatellites. In paper I, we investigated the genetic consequences of a human-induced demographic bottleneck in the Scandinavian arctic fox population. By comparing genetic data from museum specimens with genetic data from the contemporary population, we found a loss of genetic variation. However, the loss was less than expected, probably due to gene flow from North Russia. Using the same approach, we also found that Pleistocene arctic foxes from midlatitude Europe do not seem to have contributed to the genetic composition of contemporary populations (paper II). This suggests that they went extinct rather than track their habitat when it shifted northwards at the end of Pleistocene. Further, by analysing genetic data from radiocarbon dated fossils, we also found that the woolly mammoth lost genetic variation in connection to a marked decline in population size at the end of Pleistocene (paper III and IV). However, no further losses were detected during the time that mammoths were isolated on Wrangel Island, which suggests a rapid extinction process possibly caused by the arrival of humans or a short-term change in climate (paper III and IV). The results in this thesis demonstrate the usefulness of temporal genetic analyses for identifying population decline and evaluating its consequences.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Zoology, Stockholm University , 2010. , 16 p.
Keyword [en]
Vulpes lagopus, Mammuthus primigenius, population reduction, extinction, ancient DNA, mitochondrial DNA, microsatellites, genetic variation
National Category
Natural Sciences
Research subject
Animal Ecology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-42499ISBN: 978-91-7447-126-7 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-42499DiVA: diva2:347935
Public defence
2010-10-15, Nordenskiöldsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 12, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 4: Manuscript.Available from: 2010-09-23 Created: 2010-09-03 Last updated: 2014-10-13Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Genetic consequences of a demographic bottleneck in the Scandinavian arctic fox
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Genetic consequences of a demographic bottleneck in the Scandinavian arctic fox
2006 (English)In: Oikos, ISSN 0030-1299, E-ISSN 1600-0706, Vol. 114, no 1, 84-94 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Demographic bottlenecks can result in a loss of genetic variation due to the bottleneck effect and subsequent genetic drift. The arctic fox population in Scandinavia went through a severe demographic bottleneck in the early 20th century, and is today classified as critically endangered. In this study, we investigated the pre-bottleneck genetic variation in Scandinavia and compared it to modern samples from Scandinavia and North Russia. Variation in the mtDNA control region and five microsatellite loci was examined through ancient DNA analysis on museum specimens. The microsatellite data from the museum specimens was further used to simulate the expected effect of the bottleneck. The arctic foxes in Scandinavia have lost approximately 25% of the microsatellite alleles and four out of seven mtDNA haplotypes. The results also suggest that the genetic differentiation between North Russia and Scandinavia has doubled over the last 100 years. However, the level of heterozygosity was significantly higher than expected from the simulations. This highlights both the advantage of using museum specimens and the importance of generating specific predictions in conservation genetics.

National Category
Natural Sciences
Research subject
Animal Ecology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-24612 (URN)10.1111/j.2006.0030-1299.14701.x (DOI)
Available from: 2005-11-05 Created: 2005-11-05 Last updated: 2014-10-13Bibliographically approved
2. Ancient DNA reveals lack of postglacial habitat tracking in the arctic fox
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Ancient DNA reveals lack of postglacial habitat tracking in the arctic fox
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2007 (English)In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, ISSN 0027-8424, E-ISSN 1091-6490, Vol. 104, no 16, 6726-6729 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

How species respond to an increased availability of habitat, for example at the end of the last glaciation, has been well established. In contrast, little is known about the opposite process, when the amount of habitat decreases. The hypothesis of habitat tracking predicts that species should be able to track both increases and decreases in habitat availability. The alternative hypothesis is that populations outside refugia become extinct during periods of unsuitable climate. To test these hypotheses, we used ancient DNA techniques to examine genetic variation in the arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) through an expansion/contraction cycle. The results show that the arctic fox in midlatitude Europe became extinct at the end of the Pleistocene and did not track the habitat when it shifted to the north. Instead, a high genetic similarity between the extant populations in Scandinavia and Siberia suggests an eastern origin for the Scandinavian population at the end of the last glaciation. These results provide new insights into how species respond to climate change, since they suggest that populations are unable to track decreases in habitat avaliability. This implies that arctic species may be particularly vulnerable to increases in global temperatures.

National Category
Natural Sciences
Research subject
Animal Ecology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-29683 (URN)10.1073/pnas.0701341104 (DOI)000245869200043 ()0027-8424 (ISBN)
Projects
Fjällräv
Available from: 2009-09-10 Created: 2009-09-10 Last updated: 2017-03-22
3. Temporal genetic change in the last remaining population of woolly mammoth
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Temporal genetic change in the last remaining population of woolly mammoth
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2010 (English)In: Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Biological Sciences, ISSN 0962-8452, E-ISSN 1471-2954, Vol. 277, no 1692, 2331-2337 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

During the Late Pleistocene, the woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) experienced a series of local extinctions generally attributed to human predation or environmental change. Some small and isolated populations did however survive far into the Holocene. Here, we investigated the genetic consequences of the isolation of the last remaining mammoth population on Wrangel Island. We analysed 741 bp of the mitochondrial DNA and found a loss of genetic variation in relation to the isolation event, probably caused by a demographic bottleneck or a founder event. However, in spite of ca 5000 years of isolation, we did not detect any further loss of genetic variation. Together with the relatively high number of mitochondrial haplotypes on Wrangel Island near the final disappearance, this suggests a sudden extinction of a rather stable population.

Keyword
Wrangel Island, ancient DNA, mitochondrial DNA, genetic variation, Mammuthus primigenius
National Category
Natural Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-38393 (URN)10.1098/rspb.2010.0301 (DOI)000279243300009 ()
Available from: 2010-04-13 Created: 2010-04-13 Last updated: 2017-12-12Bibliographically approved
4. Microsatellite genotyping reveals end-Pleistocene shift in mammoth autosomal genetic variation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Microsatellite genotyping reveals end-Pleistocene shift in mammoth autosomal genetic variation
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(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Natural Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-42497 (URN)
Available from: 2010-09-03 Created: 2010-09-03 Last updated: 2014-10-13Bibliographically approved

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