Research Article

Conservation Genetics

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 165-181

First online:

Population structure and landscape genetics in the endangered subterranean rodent Ctenomys porteousi

  • Fernando J. MapelliAffiliated withDepartamento de Biología, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata Email author 
  • , Matías S. MoraAffiliated withDepartamento de Biología, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata
  • , Patricia M. MirolAffiliated withMuseo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales “Bernardino Rivadavia”
  • , Marcelo J. KittleinAffiliated withDepartamento de Biología, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata

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Abstract

In order to devise adequate conservation and management strategies for endangered species, it is important to incorporate a reliable understanding of its spatial population structure, detecting the existence of demographic partitions throughout its geographical range and characterizing the distribution of its genetic diversity. Moreover, in species that occupy fragmented habitats it is essential to know how landscape characteristics may affect the genetic connectivity among populations. In this study we use eight microsatellite markers to analyze population structure and gene flow patterns in the complete geographic range of the endangered rodent Ctenomys porteousi. Also, we use landscape genetics approaches to evaluate the effects of landscape configuration on the genetic connectivity among populations. In spite of geographical proximity of the sampling sites (8–27 km between the nearest sites) and the absence of marked barriers to individual movement, strong population structure and low values of gene flow were observed. Genetic differentiation among sampling sites was consistent with a simple model of isolation by distance, where peripheral areas showed higher population differentiation than those sites located in the central area of the species’ distribution. Landscape genetics analysis suggested that habitat fragmentation at regional level has affected the distribution of genetic variation among populations. The distance of sampling sites to areas of the landscape having higher habitat connectivity was the environmental factor most strongly related to population genetic structure. In general, our results indicate strong genetic structure in C. porteousi, even at a small spatial scale, and suggest that habitat fragmentation could increase the population differentiation.

Keywords

Population structure Landscape genetics Habitat fragmentation Ctenomys