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Genome. 1999 Jun;42(3):483-96.

Genetic variation within and relatedness among wood and plains bison populations.

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Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.


There are two recognized subspecies of bison, wood (Bison bison athabascae) and plains (Bison bison bison) bison. The establishment of most bison populations from a small number of individuals has raised concerns about their genetic variation. To this end, 11 bison populations were surveyed with 11 microsatellite loci in order to calculate genetic variation and genetic distances. Mean number of alleles ranged between 3.18 at Antelope Island State Park (Utah) and 6.55 at Wood Buffalo National Park (Alberta and Northwest Territories). Mean heterozygosity ranged from 0.295 at Antelope Island State Park to 0.669 at Custer State Park (South Dakota). The amount of genetic variability present in the bison populations as measured by mean number of alleles and overall probability of identity was found to correlate with the number of founders for all sampled populations. The G-test for heterogeneity revealed some evidence for the existence of subpopulations at Wood Buffalo National Park, however very small genetic distances between these subpopulations suggest that nuclear material from the plains bison introduced into Wood Buffalo National Park has diffused throughout the park. Genetic distances between the sampled populations were generally larger between than within the two bison subspecies.

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