American marten (Martes americana) in the Pacific Northwest: population differentiation across a landscape fragmented in time and space


Maureen P. Small. Fax: 360 902 2943; E-mail:


American marten (Martes americana) have a close association with mature temperate forests, a habitat that expanded throughout the Pacific Northwest as glaciers receded at the end of the Pleistocene. Similar to several other forest-associated mammals in North America (e.g. black bear), genetic analysis of the marten shows a deep phylogeographical subdivision that reflects populations with distinctive evolutionary histories. Using a suite of 14 microsatellite markers, we explored the genetic structure of marten populations in two reciprocally monophyletic clades in the Pacific Northwest identified previously as M. caurina and M. americana by mitochondrial haplotypes and morphology. Microsatellite phylogeographical patterns were congruent with mitochondrial analyses. These independent data sets shed light upon hybridization patterns, population structure and evolutionary histories. Hybridization between M. caurina and M. americana individuals was documented in two regions of sympatry (Kuiu Island in southeastern Alaska and southern Montana). Northern insular populations of M. caurina exhibited higher differentiation and lower variability relative to northern populations of M. americana. Greater divergence among M. caurina populations may reflect longer isolation and persistence in coastal forest habitat that was fragmented by rising sea level in the early Holocene. Lower differentiation among northern M. americana populations and close relationship to other continental M. americana populations may reflect more recent expansion into the Pacific Northwest and/or continued gene flow among populations. Differentiation among M. caurina populations was attributed to habitat fragmentation (i.e. rising sea level), as opposed to isolation-by-distance; oceanic straits pose significant barriers to gene flow among M. caurina populations and between populations of M. caurina and M. americana.