Fine scale population genetic structure of pumas in the Intermountain West
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In this study, I examined the population genetic structure of subpopulations of pumas (Pumaconcolor) in Idaho and surrounding states. Patterns of genetic diversity, population structure, levels of inbreeding, and the relationship between genetic differentiation and dispersal distance within and between 15 subpopulations of pumas were compared. Spatial analyses revealed that the Snake River plain was an important barrier to movement between northern and southern regions of Idaho. In addition, subpopulations south of the Snake River plain exhibited lower levels of genetic diversity, higher levels of inbreeding, and a stronger pattern of isolation by distance relative to subpopulations north of the Snake River plain. Lower levels of diversity and restricted gene flow are likely the result of historically lower population sizes in conjunction with more recent changes in habitat use and available dispersal corridors for movement. The subdivision of puma populations north and south of the Snake River plain, along with the patterns of genetic diversity within regions, indicate that landscape features are affecting the population genetic structure of pumas in Idaho. These results indicate that information about the effects of landscape features on the distribution of genetic diversity should be considered when designing plans for the management and conservation of pumas.