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Appraisal of the consequences of the DDT-induced bottleneck on the level and geographic distribution of neutral genetic variation in Canadian peregrine falcons, Falco peregrinus


Joseph W. Brown, Present address: Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, Museum of Zoology, Bird Division, 3015 Ruthven Museums Building, 1109 Geddes Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1079, USA. Fax: (734) 763-4080; E-mail:


Peregrine falcon populations underwent devastating declines in the mid-20th century due to the bioaccumulation of organochlorine contaminants, becoming essentially extirpated east of the Great Plains and significantly reduced elsewhere in North America. Extensive re-introduction programs and restrictions on pesticide use in Canada and the United States have returned many populations to predecline sizes. A proper population genetic appraisal of the consequences of this decline requires an appropriate context defined by (i) meaningful demographic entities; and (ii) suitable reference populations. Here we explore the validity of currently recognized subspecies designations using data from the mitochondrial control region and 11 polymorphic microsatellite loci taken from 184 contemporary individuals from across the breeding range, and compare patterns of population genetic structure with historical patterns inferred from 95 museum specimens. Of the three North American subspecies, the west coast marine subspecies Falco peregrinus pealei is well differentiated genetically in both time periods using nuclear loci. In contrast, the partitioning of continental Falco peregrinus anatum and arctic Falco peregrinus tundrius subspecies is not substantiated, as individuals from these subspecies are historically indistinguishable genetically. Bayesian clustering analyses demonstrate that contemporary genetic differentiation between these two subspecies is mainly due to changes within F. p. anatum (specifically the southern F. p. anatum populations). Despite expectations and a variety of tests, no genetic bottleneck signature is found in the identified populations; in fact, many contemporary indices of diversity are higher than historical values. These results are rationalized by the promptness of the recovery and the possible introduction of new genetic material.