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Conservation genetics of the fisher (Martes pennanti) based on mitochondrial DNA sequencing


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    Present address: Celera Diagnostics, 1401 Harbor Bay Parkway, Alameda, CA 94502 USA.

James G. Hallett. Fax: +1 509 335 3184; E-mail:


Translocation of animals to re-establish extirpated populations or to maintain declining ones has often been carried out without genetic information on source or target populations, or adequate consideration of the potential effects of mixing genetic stocks. We consider the conservation status of the fisher (Martes pennanti) and evaluate the potential genetic consequences of past and future translocations on this medium-sized carnivore by examining population variation in mitochondrial control-region sequences. We sampled populations throughout the fisher's range in North America including five populations unaffected by translocations and two western populations that had received long-distance translocations. Twelve haplotypes showed little sequence divergence. Haplotype frequencies differed significantly among subspecies and between populations within subspecies. Analysis of molecular variance (amova) and neighbour-joining analyses of haplotype relationships revealed population subdivision similar to current subspecies designations, but which may reflect an isolation-by-distance pattern. Populations in Oregon and in Montana and Idaho received several translocations and each showed greater similarity to the populations where translocations originated than to adjacent populations. Additional sequences obtained from museum specimens collected prior to any translocations suggest historical gene flow among populations in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California. Anthropogenic impacts in that region have greatly reduced and isolated extant populations in Oregon and California. Future translocations may be necessary to recover populations in Washington and portions of Oregon and California; our results indicate that British Columbia would be the most appropriate source population.

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