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Keywords:

  • bottlenecks;
  • drift;
  • genetic variation;
  • Philesturnus carunculatus;
  • saddleback;
  • translocations

Abstract

Repeated population bottlenecks can lead to loss of genetic variation and normally should be avoided in threatened species to preserve evolutionary potential. We examined the effect of repeated bottlenecks, in the form of sequential translocations, on loss of genetic variation in a threatened passerine, the saddleback (Philesturnus carunculatus carunculatus), a species that has recovered from a remnant population with historically low levels of genetic variation. Although a slight but nonsignificant loss of alleles may have occurred between the first-order translocation and the extirpated source population, first-, second-, and third-order translocated populations had very similar levels of genetic variation to each other. The most obvious difference among the seven island populations appeared to lie in allele frequencies with little or no loss of alleles among extant populations. Although sequential translocations are known to cause loss of variation in genetically diverse species, our study indicates that genetically depauperate species may be less sensitive to loss of genetic variation through founder events presumably because the few remaining alleles are well represented in founding individuals. These results show that ancient bottlenecks may have a long-term effect on genetic variation, to the extent that contemporary population bottlenecks may leave no appreciable genetic signature. Our results suggest that subjecting genetically depauperate endangered species to sequential translocations could be used to rapidly establish new populations without further eroding genetic variation.