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J Hered. 2002 Jul-Aug;93(4):231-7.

Genetic diversity and fitness in black-footed ferrets before and during a bottleneck.

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  • 1Department of Zoology and Physiology, PO Box 3166, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071, USA.


The black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) is an endangered North American carnivore that underwent a well-documented population bottleneck in the mid-1980s. To better understand the effects of a bottleneck on a free-ranging carnivore population, we used 24 microsatellite loci to compare genetic diversity before versus during the bottleneck, and compare the last wild population to two historical populations. We also compared genetic diversity in black-footed ferrets to that of two sibling species, the steppe polecat (Mustela eversmanni) and the European polecat (Mustela putorius). Black-footed ferrets during the bottleneck had less genetic diversity than steppe polecats. The three black-footed ferret populations were well differentiated (F(ST) = 0.57 +/- 0.15; mean +/- SE). We attributed the decrease in genetic diversity in black-footed ferrets to localized extinction of these genetically distinct subpopulations and to the bottleneck in the surviving subpopulation. Although genetic diversity decreased, female fecundity and juvenile survival were not affected by the population bottleneck.

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