, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 301-310

Evaluation of the eastern (Centrocercus urophasianus urophasianus) and western (Centrocercus urophasianus phaios) subspecies of Sage-grouse using mitochondrial control-region sequence data

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Abstract

The status of Sage-grouse (Centrocercusurophasianus) is of increasing concern, aspopulations throughout its range havecontracted as a result of habitat loss anddegradation. Historically, Sage-grouse wereclassified into two subspecies: eastern(C. u. urophasianus) and westernSage-grouse (C. u. phaios) based onslight differences in coloration noted amongeight individuals sampled from Washington,Oregon, and California. We sequenced a rapidlyevolving portion of the mitochondrial controlregion in 332 birds from 16 populations. Although our sampling area covers the proposedboundary between the eastern and westernsubspecies, no genetic evidence to support thedelineation of these subspecies was found. However, a population straddling southwesternNevada and eastern California was found tocontain an unusually high proportion of uniquehaplotypes, consistent with its geneticisolation from other Sage-grouse populations. Of additional interest was the lack ofdiversity in the two populations sampled fromWashington, one of which contained only asingle haplotype. We suggest that multiplelines of evidence are valuable for theformulation of conservation strategies andhence the southwestern Nevada/easternCalifornia population merits furthermorphological, behavioral, and molecular investigation.