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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Apr 1;100(7):4334-9. Epub 2003 Mar 24.

The history of effective population size and genetic diversity in the Yellowstone grizzly (Ursus arctos): implications for conservation.

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  • 1Department of Fish and Wildlife, College of Natural Resources, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83844-1136, USA. mill8560@uidaho.edu


Protein, mtDNA, and nuclear microsatellite DNA analyses have demonstrated that the Yellowstone grizzly bear has low levels of genetic variability compared with other Ursus arctos populations. Researchers have attributed this difference to inbreeding during a century of anthropogenic isolation and population size reduction. We test this hypothesis and assess the seriousness of genetic threats by generating microsatellite data for 110 museum specimens collected between 1912 and 1981. A loss of variability is detected, but it is much less severe than hypothesized. Variance in allele frequencies over time is used to estimate an effective population size of approximately 80 across the 20th century and >100 currently. The viability of the population is unlikely to be substantially reduced by genetic factors in the next several generations. However, gene flow from outside populations will be beneficial in avoiding inbreeding and the erosion of genetic diversity in the future.

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