, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 97-106

The impact of habitat fragmentation on genetic structure of the Japanese sika deer (Cervus nippon) in southern Kantoh, revealed by mitochondrial D-loop sequences

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Abstract

In southern Kantoh, Japanese sika deer (Cervus nippon) are distributed discontinuously due to large urban areas and developed road networks. To assess the impact of habitat fragmentation on sika deer subpopulations, we examined mitochondrial D-loop sequences from 435 individuals throughout southern Kantoh. About 13 haplotypes were detected, and their distributions revealed spatial genetic structure. Significant genetic differentiation was observed among seven of eight subpopulations. We found no significant correlation between pairwise F ST and geographical distance among subpopulations. Genetic diversity indices suggested that seven of eight subpopulations had probably experienced population bottlenecks in the recent past. Therefore, and in the light of the results of a nested clade analysis of these haplotypes, we conclude that recent fluctuations in population size and the interruption of gene flow due to past and present habitat fragmentation have played major roles influencing the spatial genetic structure of the sika deer population. This is the first evidence of spatial genetic population structure in the highly fragmented sika deer population in Honshu, Japan.