The Mauna Kea silversword, Argyroxiphium sandwicense ssp. sandwicense, has experienced both a severe population crash associated with an increase in alien ungulate populations on Mauna Kea, and a population bottleneck associated with reintroduction. In this paper, we address the genetic consequences of both demographic events using eight microsatellite loci. The population crash was not accompanied by a significant reduction in number of alleles or heterozygosity. However, the population bottleneck was accompanied by significant reductions in observed number of alleles, effective number of alleles, and expected heterozygosity, though not in observed heterozygosity. The effective size of the population bottleneck was calculated using both observed heterozygosities and allele frequency variances. Both methods corroborated the historical census size of the population bottleneck of at most three individuals. The results suggest that: (i) small populations, even those that result from severe reductions in historical population size and extent, are not necessarily genetically depauperate; and (ii) species reintroduction plans need to be conceived and implemented carefully, with due consideration to the genetic impact of sampling for reintroduction.
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