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Keywords:

  • Cervus elaphus;
  • human management;
  • microsatellites;
  • mtDNA;
  • northeastern Poland;
  • population history;
  • reintroductions

Abstract

We studied the genetic structure of a red deer (Cervus elaphus) population in 8 woodlands of northeastern Poland and 1 in western Belarus and compared it with the documented history of the population in the region. Red deer nearly went extinct in the region in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the mid-19th century, reintroductions began and continued until the mid-1960s. Animals were translocated from various sites in Poland and other European countries. We genotyped 303 individuals using 14 microsatellite loci and sequenced 253 individuals for a fragment of the control region (mitochondrial DNA [mtDNA]). The microsatellite analyses demonstrate that 3 genetically separate subpopulations exist, but 4 according to mtDNA. All haplotypes found in northeastern Poland are closely related to haplotypes from northern and northwestern Europe. The only individuals that could have originated from autochthonous red deer populations, rather than introductions, were found in Napiwoda Forest. The present regional genetic structure of the species is consistent with the known history of red deer translocations. Current patterns of genetic diversity in these populations are determined by the interaction of past human management and contemporary natural migrations. © 2012 The Wildlife Society.