Populations at risk: conservation genetics of kangaroo mice (Microdipodops) of the Great Basin Desert
Article first published online: 26 JUN 2013
© 2013 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Ecology and Evolution
Volume 3, Issue 8, pages 2497–2513, August 2013
How to Cite
Ecology and Evolution 2013; 3(8): 2497–2513
- Issue published online: 12 AUG 2013
- Article first published online: 26 JUN 2013
- Manuscript Accepted: 14 MAY 2013
- Manuscript Revised: 10 MAY 2013
- Manuscript Received: 8 FEB 2013
- Texas A&M University
- State Wildlife Grants Program. Grant Number: T-3-19
- Effective population size;
- Great Basin Desert;
- historical biogeography;
- kangaroo mice;
- Microdipodops ;
- N e ;
- population genetics
The Great Basin Desert of western North America has experienced frequent habitat alterations due to a complex biogeographic history and recent anthropogenic impacts, with the more recent alterations likely resulting in the decline of native fauna and flora. Dark (Microdipodops megacephalus) and pallid (M. pallidus) kangaroo mice are ecological specialists found within the Great Basin Desert and are potentially ideal organisms for assessing ecosystem health and inferring the biogeographic history of this vulnerable region. Herein, newly acquired nuclear-encoded microsatellite loci were utilized to assess patterns of variation within and among spatially discrete groups of kangaroo mice and to evaluate gene flow, demographic trends, and genetic integrity. Results confirm that there are at least three genetically distinct units within M. megacephalus and two such units within M. pallidus. The three units of M. megacephalus appear to have different demographic histories, with effectively no gene flow among them since their divergence. Similarly, the two units of M. pallidus also appear to have experienced different demographic histories, with effectively no gene exchange. Contemporary effective population sizes of all groups within Microdipodops appear to be low (<500), suggesting that each genetic lineage may have difficulty coping with changing environmental pressures and hence may be at risk of extirpation. Results of this study indicate that each Microdipodops group should be recognized, and therefore managed, as a separate unit in an effort to conserve these highly specialized taxa that contribute to the diversity of the Great Basin Desert ecosystem.