Original Article

Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 148, Issue 2, pp 269-274

First online:

Phylogeography of the European capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) and its implications for conservation

  • Gernot SegelbacherAffiliated withMax-Planck-Institute for Ornithology, Vogelwarte RadolfzellDepartment Wildlife Ecology and Management, University Freiburg Email author 
  • , Stuart PiertneyAffiliated withSchool of Biological Science, Zoology Building, University of Aberdeen

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The phylogeographic pattern of mitochondrial DNA variation in capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) from 14 populations across the European range was examined using sequence variation in the central portion of the control region and the cytochrome B gene. Twenty-nine different haplotypes were resolved, which formed two distinct phylogenetic clades. The major division separated haplotypes found in the Pyrenees from those found in the rest of Europe. However, two Pyrenean birds were found within the central European clade. The Pyrenean population is likely to be derived from an Iberian glacial refugium, whereas the other European populations have been recolonized from a refugium in the East. Birds from the Eastern refugium spread west until they reached the Pyrenees, where they mixed with birds from the Iberian refugium. Connectivity between populations from central, eastern, and northern Europe and the Pyrenees was interrupted by the extinction of interconnecting populations, leading to the formation of a different subspecies (Tetrao urogallus aquitanicus). We argue that the Pyrenean birds should be therefore regarded as a separate evolutionary significant unit, and we discuss the status of the other capercaillie populations in a conservation context.


Tetrao urogallus Capercaillie mtDNA Control region Cytochrome B