Conservation Genetics

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 119–128 | Cite as

Past bottlenecks and current population fragmentation of endangered huemul deer (Hippocamelus bisulcus): implications for preservation of genetic diversity

  • Paulo CortiEmail author
  • Aaron B. A. Shafer
  • David W. Coltman
  • Marco Festa-Bianchet
Research Article


Small populations in fragmented habitats can lose genetic variation through drift and inbreeding. The huemul (Hippocamelus bisulcus) is an endangered deer endemic to the southern Andes of Chile and Argentina. Huemul numbers have declined by 99% and its distribution by 50% since European settlement. The total population is estimated at less than 2,000 individuals and is highly fragmented. At one isolated population in Chilean Patagonia we sampled 56 individuals between 2005 and 2007 and genotyped them at 14 microsatellite loci. Despite low genetic variability (average 2.071 alleles/locus and average H O of 0.341), a low inbreeding coefficient (F IS) of 0.009 suggests nearly random mating. Population genetic bottleneck tests suggest both historical and contemporary reductions in population size. Simulations indicated that the population must be maintained at 75% of the current size of 120 individuals to maintain 90% of its current genetic diversity over the next 100 years. Potential management strategies to maintain genetic variability and limit future inbreeding include the conservation and establishment of habitat corridors to facilitate gene flow and the enlargement of protected areas to increase effective population size.


Huemul deer Hippocamelus bisulcus Genetic variability Inbreeding Endangered Ungulate 



We were generously funded by the Denver Zoological Foundation, through Richard Reading, Conservación Patagónica, trough Christine McDivitt, Fundación Huilo-Huilo, Wildlife Conservation Society-Field Veterinary Program, and Idea Wild. We thank Juan Carlos Marín for technical advice and for allowing the use of his lab and supplies to extract DNA, where we received valuable assistance from Valeria Varas and Nicolás Aravena. For help in capturing huemul and with fieldwork, we are grateful to Daniel Velásquez, Delmiro Jara, Arcilio Sepúlveda, René Millacura, Hernán Velásquez, Cristián Saucedo, Jon Arnemo, and Tomás Ormeño. During this research Paulo Corti was supported through a Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) grant to Marco Festa-Bianchet. Population genetic work was funded by a NSERC grant to Dave Coltman. Aaron Shafer was supported by a NSERC and Alberta Ingenuity Scholarship. CONAF (Chilean Forest Service) Aysén District Office allowed access to Lago Cochrane National Reserve. Huemul capture permits were issued for P. Corti by the Wildlife Subdepartment, Natural Renewable Resources Division of the Agricultural Service of Chile (SAG). Special thanks to Paulo’s family, Tania and Luciano, for their unconditional support through the process of this research. This is also a contribution of Instituto de Zoología of Universidad Austral de Chile and Centro de Investigación en Ecosistemas de la Patagonia (CIEP).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paulo Corti
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Aaron B. A. Shafer
    • 2
  • David W. Coltman
    • 2
  • Marco Festa-Bianchet
    • 1
  1. 1.Département de biologieUniversité de SherbrookeSherbrookeCanada
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  3. 3.Instituto de Zoología, Universidad Austral de ChileValdiviaChile

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