Conservation Genetics

, Volume 15, Issue 6, pp 1299–1311 | Cite as

Hierarchical spatial genetic structure in a distinct population segment of greater sage-grouse

  • Sara J. Oyler-McCanceEmail author
  • Michael L. Casazza
  • Jennifer A. Fike
  • Peter S. Coates
Research Article


Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) within the Bi-State Management Zone (area along the border between Nevada and California) are geographically isolated on the southwestern edge of the species’ range. Previous research demonstrated that this population is genetically unique, with a high proportion of unique mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplotypes and with significant differences in microsatellite allele frequencies compared to populations across the species’ range. As a result, this population was considered a distinct population segment (DPS) and was recently proposed for listing as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. A more comprehensive understanding of the boundaries of this genetically unique population (where the Bi-State population begins) and an examination of genetic structure within the Bi-State is needed to help guide effective management decisions. We collected DNA from eight sampling locales within the Bi-State (N = 181) and compared those samples to previously collected DNA from the two most proximal populations outside of the Bi-State DPS, generating mtDNA sequence data and amplifying 15 nuclear microsatellites. Both mtDNA and microsatellite analyses support the idea that the Bi-State DPS represents a genetically unique population, which has likely been separated for thousands of years. Seven mtDNA haplotypes were found exclusively in the Bi-State population and represented 73 % of individuals, while three haplotypes were shared with neighboring populations. In the microsatellite analyses both STRUCTURE and FCA separate the Bi-State from the neighboring populations. We also found genetic structure within the Bi-State as both types of data revealed differences between the northern and southern part of the Bi-State and there was evidence of isolation-by-distance. STRUCTURE revealed three subpopulations within the Bi-State consisting of the northern Pine Nut Mountains (PNa), mid Bi-State, and White Mountains (WM) following a north–south gradient. This genetic subdivision within the Bi-State is likely the result of habitat loss and fragmentation that has been exacerbated by recent human activities and the encroachment of singleleaf pinyon (Pinus monophylla) and juniper (Juniperus spp.) trees. While genetic concerns may be only one of many priorities for the conservation and management of the Bi-State greater sage-grouse, we believe that they warrant attention along with other issues (e.g., quality of sagebrush habitat, preventing future loss of habitat). Management actions that promote genetic connectivity, especially with respect to WM and PNa, may be critical to the long-term viability of the Bi-State DPS.


Bi-State Distinct population segment Gene flow Genetic diversity Greater sage-grouse Microsatellites Mitochondrial DNA 



We thank C. Overton, E. Kolada, J. Ragni, B. Prochazka, and M. Farinha, and numerous dedicated field technicians from the Western Ecological Research Center of the USGS for collecting samples for this study. Additional samples were provided by S. Espinosa of the Nevada Department of Wildlife and by S. Pellegrini and his students from Yerington High School, Yerington, Nev. Support for sample collection was also provided by Quail Unlimited; the University of Nevada, Reno; the California Department of Fish and Game; the U.S. Forest Service; and the Bureau of Land Management. We thank J. Richmond for helpful comments on this manuscript. Any use of trade, product, or firm names in this publication is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht (outside the USA) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sara J. Oyler-McCance
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael L. Casazza
    • 2
  • Jennifer A. Fike
    • 1
  • Peter S. Coates
    • 2
  1. 1.Fort Collins Science CenterU.S. Geological SurveyFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.Western Ecological Research CenterU.S. Geological SurveyDixonUSA

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