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J Mol Evol. 2010 Mar;70(3):242-6. doi: 10.1007/s00239-010-9333-3. Epub 2010 Mar 19.

Widespread translocation from autosomes to sex chromosomes preserves genetic variability in an endangered lark.

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Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, UK.


Species that pass repeatedly through narrow population bottlenecks (<100 individuals) are likely to have lost a large proportion of their genetic variation. Having genotyped 92 Raso larks Alauda razae, a Critically Endangered single-island endemic whose world population in the Cape Verdes over the last 100 years has fluctuated between about 15 and 130 pairs, we found variation at 7 of 21 microsatellite loci that successfully amplified, the remaining loci being monomorphic. At 6 of the polymorphic loci variation was sex-linked, despite the fact that these microsatellites were not sex-linked in the other passerine birds where they were developed. Comparative analysis strongly suggests that material from several different autosomes has been recently transferred to the sex chromosomes in larks. Sex-linkage might plausibly allow some level of heterozygosity to be maintained, even in the face of persistently small population sizes.

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