The Alapahoochee watershed microgeographic structure and its potential influence on metal concentrations and genetic structure in the Florida cottonmouth, Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti, within the watershed
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This study examines the microgeographic structure of the Alapahoochee watershed, part of the Suwannee River basin, south-central GA, USA, and relates it to variations in liver metal concentrations and genetic structure of the Florida cottonmouth, Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti. One objective was to determine if liver metal concentrations in A. piscivorus differ between Grand Bay and Mud creeks, which form the watershed’s upper portion. Grand Bay Creek is relatively pristine, whereas Mud Creek is polluted with various metals. Genetic analyses were used to assess possible migration patterns between the creeks indicating whether the basin possesses a single population or two populations. Collections occurred in 2008 and 2009. Specimens were captured, euthanized, or collected as road kills, and liver metal concentrations were analyzed and DNA extracted. No differences in metal concentrations were detected between the creeks, except for nickel in females. Metal concentrations in A. piscivorus were not significantly different between males and females nor show a relationship to body size. Genetic analyses were limited to three primer sets, which amplified informative loci. Locus, CH4B, was highly divergent between the putative populations and particularly informative. Genetic structure indicates potential population isolation within the two creeks. Results suggest that two distinct A. piscivorus populations were present and those populations did not differ in their liver metal concentrations (exception being nickel), despite the differences in environmental metal concentrations in the areas. These findings provide new insight into metal accumulation and detoxification in these animals.
KeywordsMicrogeographic Metals Genetics Populations
Harvey B. Lilywhite is acknowledged for serving on the master’s thesis committee of the primary author. Jeremy Davis is thanked for providing access to his family’s holdings on the west side of Grand Bay Swamp. Tayler Jarvis is thanked for help in analyzing metal concentrations. Langdale Forestry Company is thanked for providing access to the west side of Mud Swamp. Grand Bay Hunting Club (now closed) is thanked for providing access to Site 6 north of Howell road.
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