Conservation Genetics

, Volume 11, Issue 6, pp 2131–2143 | Cite as

Integrating multiple analytical approaches to spatially delineate and characterize genetic population structure: an application to boreal caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in central Canada

  • Mark C. Ball
  • Laura Finnegan
  • Micheline Manseau
  • Paul Wilson
Research Article


Individual-based clustering (IBC) methods have become increasingly popular for the characterization and delineation of genetic population units for numerous species. These methods delineate populations based on the genetic assumptions of a breeding unit which may provide a better representation of the behaviour of the species. The increasing use of IBC has resulted in the development of several analytical models all of which vary in their theoretical assumptions to infer genetic population structure. In this paper, we report a comparative strategy utilizing three IBC methods to characterize the spatial genetic structure of the boreal population of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) in central Canada. In addition, we implement both tests for isolation-by-distance (IBD) and frequency-based assignment tests to validate the consensus genetic clusters as defined by IBC. We also compare indirect metrics of genetic diversity and gene flow using both a priori defined herds and the IBC defined populations. Although our results show some concordance between both pre-defined herds and IBC derived genetic clusters, the IBC analyses identified a cluster that was cryptic to observation-based caribou herds and found no difference between several adjacent herds. By comparing multiple IBC methods and integrating both IBD and indirect genetic diversity metrics a posteriori, our strategy provides an effective means to delineate wildlife population structure and accurately assess genetic diversity and connectivity.


Assignment test Population structure Bayesian Rangifer tarandus Faeces Range delineation 



Financial support for this project was provided in part by NSERC to PJW and an NSERC Graduate Scholarship to MCB, Species at Risk Recovery Fund, Parks Canada, Manitoba Department of Conservation, Manitoba Hydro, Saskatchewan Environment and the Prince Albert Model Forest. We would also like to express our appreciation to all those involved with winter field collections, volunteering and technical support from the University of Manitoba and Trent University.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark C. Ball
    • 1
    • 4
  • Laura Finnegan
    • 1
  • Micheline Manseau
    • 2
    • 3
  • Paul Wilson
    • 1
  1. 1.Natural Resources DNA Profiling and Forensic CentreTrent UniversityPeterboroughCanada
  2. 2.Western Canada Service CentreWinnipegCanada
  3. 3.Natural Resources InstituteUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada
  4. 4.Fisheries and Wildlife Management DivisionGovernment of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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