Research Article

Conservation Genetics

, Volume 12, Issue 5, pp 1345-1355

First online:

Crumbling diversity: comparison of historical archived and contemporary natural populations indicate reduced genetic diversity and increasing genetic differentiation in the golden-cheeked warbler

  • Giridhar AthreyAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of LouisianaVector Biology Group, Texas A&M University Email author 
  • , Denise L. LindsayAffiliated withEnvironmental Laboratory, U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center
  • , Richard F. LanceAffiliated withEnvironmental Laboratory, U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center
  • , Paul L. LebergAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Louisiana

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Genetic viability of threatened and endangered species is of increasing concern with habitat loss and fragmentation. Valuable assessments of the genetic status of endangered species are difficult in most cases, where only single sample estimates are available. Using historical and contemporary samples, we assessed the impact of both historical and recent demographic changes on population genetics of the endangered golden-cheeked warbler, (Dendroica chrysoparia). Our study documents a steep decline in genetic diversity in an endangered species over a 100-year period, along with concurrent increase in genetic differentiation, and low contemporary effective sizes for all the populations we evaluated. While adding to the growing body of literature that describes the genetic impacts of habitat fragmentation, our study may also serve as an informative guide to future management of endangered species. Our study underlines the importance of long term population genetic monitoring in understanding the full extent of genetic changes in endangered species.


Genetic diversity Fragmentation Effective population size Endangered birds Historical-contemporary samples