Introgression and gene flow in Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) in the southeastern U.S.A.
Valentine, Teresa L.
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Releases of pen-raised Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) stock into the wild and the decline in suitable bobwhite habitat throughout the Southeastern U.S.A. present the prospect of fitness reduction in the wild and genetic isolation of populations, respectively. I sampled 244 bobwhites from 8 locations in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, and from 4 commercial breeders to assess levels of introgression and gene flow among populations using a panel of species-specific microsatellite markers. I found little evidence of introgression into wild populations from pen-raised stock; however a reduction in genetic diversity found in pen-reared populations may warrant concern regarding genetic swamping. I also found little population differentiation among both geographically proximate and distant sites, although moderate inbreeding levels I found in 2 populations may suggest a recent reduction in gene flow. Continued monitoring of managed and unmanaged populations is recommended to further assess the genetic impacts of pen-releases and habitat fragmentation.