Conservation Genetics

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 643–660 | Cite as

Rangewide genetic analysis of Lesser Prairie-Chicken reveals population structure, range expansion, and possible introgression

  • Sara J. Oyler-McCance
  • Randall W. DeYoung
  • Jennifer A. Fike
  • Christian A. Hagen
  • Jeff A. Johnson
  • Lena C. Larsson
  • Michael A. Patten
Research Article


The distribution of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) has been markedly reduced due to loss and fragmentation of habitat. Portions of the historical range, however, have been recolonized and even expanded due to planting of conservation reserve program (CRP) fields that provide favorable vegetation structure for Lesser Prairie-Chickens. The source population(s) feeding the range expansion is unknown, yet has resulted in overlap between Lesser and Greater Prairie-Chickens (T. cupido) increasing the potential for hybridization. Our objectives were to characterize connectivity and genetic diversity among populations, identify source population(s) of recent range expansion, and examine hybridization with the Greater Prairie-Chicken. We analyzed 640 samples from across the range using 13 microsatellites. We identified three to four populations corresponding largely to ecoregions. The Shinnery Oak Prairie and Sand Sagebrush Prairie represented genetically distinct populations (F ST > 0.034 and F ST > 0.023 respectively). The Shortgrass/CRP Mosaic and Mixed Grass ecoregions appeared admixed (F ST = 0.009). Genetic diversity was similar among ecoregions and N e ranged from 142 (95 % CI 99–236) for the Shortgrass/CRP Mosaic to 296 (95 % CI 233–396) in the Mixed Grass Prairie. No recent migration was detected among ecoregions, except asymmetric dispersal from both the Mixed Grass Prairie and to a lesser extent the Sand Sagebrush Prairie north into adjacent Shortgrass/CRP Mosaic (m = 0.207, 95 % CI 0.116–0.298, m = 0.097, 95 % CI 0.010–0.183, respectively). Indices investigating potential hybridization in the Shortgrass/CRP Mosaic revealed that six of the 13 individuals with hybrid phenotypes were significantly admixed suggesting hybridization. Continued monitoring of diversity within and among ecoregions is warranted as are actions promoting genetic connectivity and range expansion.


Tympanuchus pallidicinctus Spatial genetic population structure Gene flow Genetic diversity Hybridization 



We thank the numerous landowners and field technicians who contributed to sample collection for this project. We are grateful to Matt Bain and Tamara Fields for collection of blood and morphometric samples for the hybrids. We thank Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, and Texas Parks and Wildlife for their input and support. Funding for this project was provided by the U.S. Geological Survey. Support for C. A. Hagen was provided by Grant Agreement #J1730A between Oregon State University and Pheasants Forever. The Sutton Avian Research Center gratefully acknowledges support from federal and state agencies, corporate and private foundations, and private individuals. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

Supplementary material

10592_2016_812_MOESM1_ESM.docx (14 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 14 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht (outside the USA) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sara J. Oyler-McCance
    • 1
  • Randall W. DeYoung
    • 2
  • Jennifer A. Fike
    • 1
  • Christian A. Hagen
    • 3
  • Jeff A. Johnson
    • 4
  • Lena C. Larsson
    • 5
  • Michael A. Patten
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.U. S. Geological SurveyFort Collins Science CenterFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.Department of Animal, Rangeland, and Wildlife SciencesTexas A&M University-KingsvilleKingsvilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Fisheries and WildlifeOregon State UniversityBendUSA
  4. 4.Department of Biological Sciences, Institute of Applied SciencesUniversity of North TexasDentonUSA
  5. 5.Sutton Avian Research CenterUniversity of OklahomaBartlesvilleUSA
  6. 6.Oklahoma Biological Survey and Department of BiologyUniversity of OklahomaNormanUSA

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