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What genetics tell us about the conservation of the critically endangered Balearic Shearwater?

AuthorsGenovart, Meritxell CSIC ORCID ; Oro, Daniel CSIC ORCID CVN ; Juste, Javier CSIC ORCID; Bertorelle, Giorgio
KeywordsConservation genetics
Population expansion
Population structure
Puffinus mauretanicus
Issue Date2007
CitationBiological Conservation, 13 7 ( 20 07) 2 8 3 – 29 3
AbstractThe Balearic shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus is one of the most critically endangered sea- birds in the world. The species is endemic to the Balearic archipelago, and conservation concerns are the low number of breeding pairs, the low adult survival, and the possible hybridization with a sibling species, the morphologically smaller Yelkouan shearwater (P. yelkouan). We sampled almost the entire breeding range of the species and analyzed the genetic variation at two mitochondrial DNA regions. No genetic evidence of population decline was found. Despite the observed philopatry, we detected a weak population struc- ture mainly due to connectivity among colonies higher than expected, but also to a Pleis- tocene demographic expansion. Some colonies showed a high imbalance between immigration and emigration rates, suggesting spatial heterogeneity in patch quality. Genetic evidence of maternal introgression from the sibling species was reinforced, but almost only in a peripheral colony and not followed, at least to date, by the spread of the introgressed mtDNA lineages. Morphometric differences were not correlated with mtDNA haplotypes and introgression is probably due to a secondary contact between the two spe- cies several generations ago. Overall, results suggested that the very recent demographic decline in this critically endangered species has not yet decreased its genetic variability, and connectivity found among most colonies should help to reduce species extinction risk. Spreading of introgression should be monitored, but the species is not jeopardized at the moment by genetic factors and the major conservation actions should concentrate at enhancing adult survival.
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