Conservation Genetics

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 425–437 | Cite as

Genetic Effects of a Persistent Bottleneck on a Natural Population of Ornate Box Turtles (Terrapene ornata)

  • Chih-Horng Kuo
  • Fredric J. Janzen


Human activities in the past few hundred years have caused enormous impacts on many ecosystems, greatly accelerating the rate of population decline and extinction. In addition to habitat alteration and destruction, the loss of genetic diversity due to reduced population size has become a major conservation issue for many imperiled species. However, the genetic effects of persistent population bottlenecks can be very different for long-lived and short-lived species when considering the time scale of centuries. To investigate the genetic effects of persistent population bottlenecks on long-lived species, we use microsatellite markers to assess the level of genetic diversity of a small ornate box turtle population that has experienced a persistent bottleneck in the past century, and compare it to a large relatively undisturbed population. The genetic signature of a recent bottleneck is detected by examining the deviation from mutation-drift equilibrium in the small population, but the bottleneck had little effect on its level of genetic diversity. Computer simulations combined with information on population structure suggest that an effective population size of 300, which results in a census population size of 700, would be required for the small population to maintain 90% of the average number of alleles per locus in the next 200 years. The life history of long-lived species could mask the accelerated rate of genetic drift, making population recovery a relatively slow process. Statistical analysis of genetic data and empirical-based computer simulations can be important tools to facilitate conservation planning.

conservation genetics genetic diversity microsatellite population bottleneck Terrapene ornata 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chih-Horng Kuo
    • 1
    • 2
  • Fredric J. Janzen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal BiologyIowa State UniversityAmesUSA
  2. 2.Department of GeneticsThe University of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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