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Genetic Signatures of Demographic Changes in an Avian Top Predator during the Last Century: Bottlenecks and Expansions of the Eurasian Eagle Owl in the Iberian Peninsula

Autor Gracia, Eva; Ortego, Joaquín ; Godoy, José A. ; Pérez-García, Juan M.; Blanco, Guillermo ; Delgado, María del Mar ; Pemteriani, Vincenzo; Almodóvar, Irene; Botella, Francisco; Sánchez-Zapata, José A.
Fecha de publicación 2015
EditorPublic Library of Science
Citación PLoS ONE, 10(7): e0133954. (2015)
ResumenThe study of the demographic history of species can help to understand the negative impact of recent population declines in organisms of conservation concern. Here, we use neutral molecular markers to explore the genetic consequences of the recent population decline and posterior recovery of the Eurasian eagle owl (Bubo bubo) in the Iberian Peninsula. During the last century, the species was the object of extermination programs, suffering direct persecution by hunters until the 70’s. Moreover, during the last decades the eagle owl was severely impacted by increased mortality due to electrocution and the decline of its main prey species, the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). In recent times, the decrease of direct persecution and the implementation of some conservation schemes have allowed the species’ demographic recovery. Yet, it remains unknown to which extent the past population decline and the later expansion have influenced the current species’ pattern of genetic diversity. We used eight microsatellite markers to genotype 235 eagle owls from ten Spanish subpopulations and analyse the presence of genetic signatures attributable to the recent population fluctuations experienced by the species. We found moderate levels of differentiation among the studied subpopulations and Bayesian analyses revealed the existence of three genetic clusters that grouped subpopulations from central, south-western and southeastern Spain. The observed genetic structure could have resulted from recent humaninduced population fragmentation, a patchy distribution of prey populations and/or the philopatric behaviour and habitat selection of the species. We detected an old population bottleneck, which occurred approximately 10,000 years ago, and significant signatures of recent demographic expansions. However, we did not find genetic signatures for a recent bottleneck, which may indicate that population declines were not severe enough to leave detectable signals on the species genetic makeup or that such signals have been eroded by the rapid demographic recovery experienced by the species in recent years
Versión del editorhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0133954
URI http://hdl.handle.net/10261/122971
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