Evidence for cryptic glacial refugia from North American mountain sheep mitochondrial DNA


John Loehr, University of Jyväskylä, Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, P.O. Box 35, 40014, Jyväskylä, Finland.
Tel: 358 14 260 1211; fax: 358 14 260 2321;
e-mail: johloeh@cc.jyu.fi


The separation of populations by ice sheets into large refugia can account for much of the genetic diversity found in present day populations. The evolutionary implications of small glacial refugia have not been as thoroughly explored. To examine refugial origins of North American mountain sheep Ovis spp., we analyzed a 604 bp portion of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region from 223 O. dalli and O. canadensis. Major refugia were identified in eastern Beringia and southern North America, and we found evidence for two smaller refugia situated between the Laurentide and Cordilleran glaciers. Our results are the first to demonstrate support for survival of any organism in the latter two refugia. These refugia also appear to have conserved a genetic signal that confirms past hybridization of O. dalli and O. canadensis.