Conservation Genetics of the White-Tailed Eagle
Sammanfattning: The white-tailed eagle is a formerly threatened raptor that is commonly used as a flagship and indicator species in conservation work. This thesis uses molecular genetic methods to study sex determination of nestlings, genetic variability, population structure and phylogeography of the white-tailed eagle.Fourteen microsatellite markers were developed and tested for the white-tailed eagle.A method to sex white-tailed eagle nestlings in the field is presented. The method is based on just one tarsus measure, and is suitable for situations where a single person is handling the nestlings alone in a treetop.Most European white-tailed eagle populations underwent extreme declines during the 20th century. The results presented here show that bottlenecked populations have maintained significant levels of genetic diversity. Gene flow between regions is not a main explanation for this, as indicated by both genetic and ringing data. Instead, the long generation time of white-tailed eagles has acted as an intrinsic buffer against rapid loss of genetic diversity. Additionally, local conservation led to protection of more genetic diversity than if conservation had focused on the large remnant population in Norway.Mitochondrial DNA of white-tailed eagles is structured in two main clades with a predominantly eastern and western Eurasian distribution. The clades likely correspond to separate Ice Age refugia but do not grant classification as evolutionary significant units given their current extensive overlap across large parts of Eurasia.Microsatellite variation was studied in populations across Eurasia. Variability was rather constant across the continent, but clearly lower on Iceland and Greenland. This is best explained by founder effects during their colonisation, but only weak bottlenecks during colonisation of and persistence on the continent. Current population differentiation between Europe and eastern Eurasia is not compatible with a zero gene flow model but requires some amount of gene flow over evolutionary time scales.
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