Genetic consequences of population decline in the Danish population of the little owl (Athene noctua)

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  • Cino Pertoldi
  • Irene Pellegrino, University of Piemonte Orientale, Italien
  • Maroc Cucco, University of Piemonte Orientale, Italien
  • Nadia Mucci, Istituto Superiore per l’Ambiente e la Ricerca (ISPRA), Italien
  • Ettore Randi, Istituto Superiore per l’Ambiente e la Ricerca (ISPRA), Italien
  • Jørgen Terp Laursen, Brabrand, Danmark
  • Peter Sunde
  • Volker Loeschcke
  • Torsten Nygaard Kristensen
Background: Danish populations of the little owl (Athene noctua) have experienced dramaticdeclines in size over the past century. Before 1960 the little owl population was abundantin Denmark (estimated N>2000), but between 1960 and 1980 the population declinedrapidly, and since 1980 the little owl population has survived only in small and fragmentedareas.

Question: Is the decline in population size associated with reduced genetic variation in theseDanish populations of the little owl? Are the populations genetically fragmented?Field site: Samples were collected from birds in Denmark (from 57457″N to 543335″N).

Methods: We extracted DNA from the feathers of museum specimens of Danish little owlscollected between 1918 and 1980. We also extracted DNA from feathers collected between 1984and2010.We performed a genetic analysis of 15 microsatellites on these samples.

Conclusions: Older samples showed relatively little genetic variability, with more recent onesshowing even less. In addition, pairwise FST values showed evidence for genetic substructuringwith small but significant genetic differences between the extant population and the extinct owlpopulations on the Danish isle of Funen. The modest loss of genetic variability observed sincethe 1960s and 1970s may be associated with a diminished distributional range and populationbottlenecks
TidsskriftEvolutionary Ecology Research
Sider (fra-til)921-932
Antal sider11
StatusUdgivet - 2012

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