Population genetic structure among bobwhite in an agriculturally modified landscape


  • Associate Editor: Wayne Thogmartin

E-mail: lberkman@siu.edu


Northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) depend on ephemeral habitats, which are constantly changing in quality and spatial structure. Given recent changes in agricultural practices in the Midwest, habitat patches on the landscape are undoubtedly occurring in new configurations, presenting new challenges to bobwhite. Yet, little is known about dispersal capabilities of bobwhite in Illinois where widespread change in land use has coincided with population declines. Since effective dispersal results in gene flow, we investigated the genetic population structure of bobwhite in Illinois using 11 DNA microsatellite loci. We analyzed bobwhite collected by hunters in southern and central counties of Illinois at 6 sampling areas separated by 27–276 km. We found a significant but low amount of genetic structure (FST = 0.009). We used multiple genetic analysis methods (FST, PCA, STRUCTURE, and Mantel tests) to gain greater insights into genetic structure. Patterns of differentiation did not correspond to those expected from an isolation-by-distance pattern. Genetic introgression from stock source birds was not strongly indicated. The low amount of population structure detected may be an early indication of genetic drift occurring due to recent landscape changes that may be isolating bobwhite subpopulations. Future sampling when more time has elapsed will help resolve where these subpopulations lie on the continuum between complete isolation and panmixia. © 2013 The Wildlife Society.