Conservation Genetics

, Volume 12, Issue 5, pp 1345–1355 | Cite as

Crumbling diversity: comparison of historical archived and contemporary natural populations indicate reduced genetic diversity and increasing genetic differentiation in the golden-cheeked warbler

  • Giridhar AthreyEmail author
  • Denise L. Lindsay
  • Richard F. Lance
  • Paul L. Leberg
Research Article


Genetic viability of threatened and endangered species is of increasing concern with habitat loss and fragmentation. Valuable assessments of the genetic status of endangered species are difficult in most cases, where only single sample estimates are available. Using historical and contemporary samples, we assessed the impact of both historical and recent demographic changes on population genetics of the endangered golden-cheeked warbler, (Dendroica chrysoparia). Our study documents a steep decline in genetic diversity in an endangered species over a 100-year period, along with concurrent increase in genetic differentiation, and low contemporary effective sizes for all the populations we evaluated. While adding to the growing body of literature that describes the genetic impacts of habitat fragmentation, our study may also serve as an informative guide to future management of endangered species. Our study underlines the importance of long term population genetic monitoring in understanding the full extent of genetic changes in endangered species.


Genetic diversity Fragmentation Effective population size Endangered birds Historical-contemporary samples 



We thank the AMNH, New York, NY, MCZ Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, FMNH, Chicago, IL, and NMNH, Washington DC for tissue samples. We thank Ft. Hood, Kerr WMA, Balcones Canyonlands NWR, TPWD, K. Barr, C. Goates, J. Hernandez, S. Pathikonda, and L. Butler for access to field sites, and help with field sampling. We thank J. Neigel, S. Mopper and D. Johnson and anonymous reviewers for comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. This study was funded by U.S. Department of Defense under the Section 6.1 Basic Research Program and U.S. Army 6.2 Threatened and Endangered Species Program to RFL and PLL.

Supplementary material

10592_2011_235_MOESM1_ESM.docx (14 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 14 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Giridhar Athrey
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Denise L. Lindsay
    • 2
  • Richard F. Lance
    • 2
  • Paul L. Leberg
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of LouisianaLafayetteUSA
  2. 2.Environmental LaboratoryU.S. Army Engineer Research and Development CenterVicksburgUSA
  3. 3.Vector Biology GroupTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA

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