• bottleneck;
  • conservation genetics;
  • microsatellites;
  • non-invasive genotyping;
  • population structure;
  • Tetrao urogallus


The Cantabrian capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus cantabricus) occupies the southwestern edge of the grouse family distribution range in Eurasia. It is endemic to the Cantabrian Mountains in northwestern Spain and is geographically isolated and separated from the neighboring population in the Pyrenees by a distance of 300 km. Over the last decades, the population has undergone a dramatic decline and is now threatened with extinction. This study presents the genetic analysis of the Cantabrian capercaillie population using non-invasive samples. We performed genotyping of 45 individuals using 20 microsatellites and a sex marker. The data highlight the need for using a large number of markers when considering fragmented small populations. Genetic diversity (HE = 0.50) and average number of alleles (3.40) in the population were low. The population is fragmented into 2 clusters (FST = 0.113) that fit with areas on both sides of the transportation ways that divide its range. Both clusters exhibited additional heterozygote deficits. Geographical distance was negatively correlated with genetic relatedness (r = −0.44, P ≤ 0.001). The data show a recent decline in effective population size that can be related to an ongoing process of population reduction and fragmentation. Conservation actions should focus on the protection of local demes by maintaining a dense network of suitable patches to maximize reproductive output and the number of potential dispersers to reconnect the 2 subpopulations. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.