Population genetic structure of the European ground squirrel in the Czech Republic

Abstract

The European ground squirrel (Spermophilus citellus) is considered an endangered species with declining numbers throughout Europe, most pronounced at the western margin of its distribution area. Being extinct in Germany and Poland, the western margin of its distribution is in the Czech Republic. Here, landscape fragmentation has restricted the ground squirrels into few and very isolated localities where local extinctions still occur. In the present study we analysed European ground squirrels from six Czech and one Slovak localities using five microsatellite loci as genetic marker. The results show a strong genetic differentiation among the investigated populations (mean value of F ST = 0.16) and high levels of inbreeding (values of F IS ranged from 0.34 to 0.90). High level of inbreeding is generally considered to affect the viability of each population, which could lead to extinction. One of the most important factors is the lack of migration due to the large distances between the populations and the presence of migration barriers. Based on the results obtained we recommend a few suggestions for a conservation management of this species.

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Acknowledgements

Permission to catch and sample specimens was given by the Ministry of Environment of the Czech Republic (permission no. 11295/02 OOP/2986/02 V1028). We are very thankful to the colleagues at the Laboratory of Fish Genetics, the Institute of Animal Physiology and Genetics, Liběchov, the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, especially to Vendula Šlechtová, Vlastimil Šlechta and Peter Ráb for their support in laboratory work. We would also like to thank Vendula Šlechtová, Jöerg Bohlen, Josef Bryja and the two anonymous referees for useful comments on the manuscript. The authors acknowledge other people who helped during the birth of this study: Michal Berec, David Boukal, Petra Judy Cehláriková, Jan Matějů, František Marec, Peter Mikulíček, Zdeněk Lajbner, Dana Schröffelová and Jan Vondrák. This project was supported by a grant of the Czech Science Foundation (GAČR) no. 206/04/0254.

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Correspondence to Štěpánka Hulová.

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Hulová, Š., Sedláček, F. Population genetic structure of the European ground squirrel in the Czech Republic. Conserv Genet 9, 615–625 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10592-007-9378-z

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Keywords

  • Ground squirrel
  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Inbreeding
  • Microsatellites