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Keywords:

  • Anser brachyrhynchus;
  • mtDNA;
  • northern refugia;
  • phylogeography;
  • pink-footed goose;
  • Pleistocene

Abstract

Population structure and phylogeography of the pink-footed goose, Anser brachyrhynchus Baillon 1833, was studied using mtDNA control region sequences (221 bp) from 142 individuals. Present breeding areas of the species in Greenland, Iceland, and Svalbard were largely covered by ice during the late Pleistocene. In pairwise comparisons φST estimates showed significant differentiation among eastern and western populations, whereas sampling localities within both areas were not differentiated. The mtDNA data indicate that the populations have separated recently (less than 10 000 years ago) and present breeding areas were colonized from one refugial population. The levels of haplotype and nucleotide diversity were approximately five times higher for the eastern population compared to the western population and suggest that the latter was colonized by a subset of eastern birds. Time to the most recent common ancestor of the species is 32 000–46 000 years, i.e. the present mtDNA variation of the pink-footed goose has accumulated during the last 0.1 My. Estimates of the long-term female effective population size (5400–7700 for the eastern population) imply that the refugial population of the pink-footed goose has been large. Tundra habitats were more extensive in cold periods of the late Pleistocene than today and may have sustained population sizes that allowed the accumulation of extant genetic polymorphism. It is not probable that the postulated small refugial areas in the high latitudes had a significant role in maintaining this diversity.