Conservation Genetics

, Volume 7, Issue 5, pp 735–751 | Cite as

Re-examination of the historical range of the greater prairie chicken using provenance data and DNA analysis of museum collections

  • Jeremy D. Ross
  • Allan D. Arndt
  • Roger F. C. Smith
  • Jeff A. Johnson
  • Juan L. BouzatEmail author


The extent to which a species has declined within its historical range is commonly used as an important criterion in categorizing the conservation status of wild populations. The greater prairie chicken (Tympanuchus cupido) has been extirpated from much of the area it once inhabited. However, within a large part of this area the species is not considered to be native, warranting no recovery effort or special protection. Demographic analysis based on provenance data from 238 specimens from museum collections in addition to genetic analyses of 100 mtDNA sequences suggest this species was native to the northern prairies, extending from central Minnesota to Alberta, Canada. Provenance data from 1879 to 1935 indicate that T. cupido would have required colonization and establishment of populations on an average 11,905 km2 every year, with an estimated per capita growth rate of 8.9% per year. These rates seem unrealistic given the limited dispersal and high mortality rates reported for this species. A survey of mtDNA sequences from “original” and “expanded” ranges revealed no differences in levels of sequence diversity within ranges (π=0.018; SE=0.004) but significant levels of genetic differentiation (F ST=0.034; P=0.013), which suggest that these populations have been relatively isolated for significant evolutionary time periods. DNA mismatch distributions fit a sudden expansion model consistent with a post-Pleistocene expansion of the species, which coincides with the expansion of prairies into the Canadian plains about 9000 years before present. This study demonstrates the value of museum collections as stores of ecological and genetic information fundamental for the conservation of natural populations, and suggests that the current status of the greater prairie chicken should be re-evaluated within all areas where this species may occur, but is now considered non-native.

Key words

Tympanuchus cupido range expansion historical DNA analysis mitochondrial DNA mismatch distributions 


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This work was supported by Department of Biological Sciences at Bowling Green State University, the Brandon University Research Committee, and the H. Stewart Perdue Award. We thank Christopher Tracey for technical assistance on GIS mapping, and Karen V. Root, Scott Mills, Ken N. Paige and three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on the manuscript. The following museums provided access for specimen sampling: American Museum of Natural History (New York, NY), B.J. Hales Museum of Natural History (Brandon, MB), Canadian Museum of Nature (Ottawa, ON), Field Museum of Natural History (Chicago, IL), Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature (Winnipeg, MB), Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (Berkeley, CA), National Museum of Natural History (Washington, DC), Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto, ON), Royal Saskatchewan Museum (Regina, SK), and the U. of Alberta Museum of Zoology (Edmonton, AB). The following institutions provided T. cupido provenance data: Academy of Natural Sciences (Philadelphia, PA), Delaware Museum of Natural History (Wilmington, DE), Denver Museum of Nature and Science (CO), Dickey Collection – UCLA (Los Angeles, CA), Florida Museum of Natural History (Gainesville, FL), Milwaukee Public Museum (Milwaukee, WI), Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard (Cambridge, MA), New York State Museum (Albany, NY), Ohio State University Museum of Biological Diversity (Columbus, OH), Peabody Museum at Yale (New Haven, CT), Provincial Museum of Alberta (Edmonton, AB), San Diego Natural History Museum (San Diego, CA), Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History (Norman, OK), The Natural History Museum (London, UK), U. of Michigan Museum of Zoology (Ann Arbor, MI), U. of Nevada (Reno, NV), and Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology (Camarillo, CA).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeremy D. Ross
    • 1
  • Allan D. Arndt
    • 2
    • 4
  • Roger F. C. Smith
    • 2
  • Jeff A. Johnson
    • 3
  • Juan L. Bouzat
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesBowling Green State UniversityBowling GreenUSA
  2. 2.Department of ZoologyBrandon UniversityManitobaCanada
  3. 3.Museum of ZoologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  4. 4.University College of Fraser ValleyAbbotsfordCanada

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