MUSEO ARGENTINO DE CIENCIAS NATURALES "BERNARDINO RIVADAVIA"
Unidad Ejecutora - UE
Genetic differentiation of a capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) population at the rear edge of the species range
R. RODRIGUEZ MUÑOZ; P. MIROL; G. SEGELBACHER; A. FERNÁNDEZ; T. TREGENZA
The low-latitude limits of species ranges are thought to be particularly important as long-term stores of genetic diversity and hot spots for speciation. The Iberian Peninsula, one of the main glacial refugia in Europe, houses the southern distribution limits of a number of boreal species. The capercaillie is one such species with a range extending northwards to cover most of Europe from Iberia to Scandinavia and East to Siberia. The Cantabrian Range, in North Spain, constitutes the contemporary south-western distribution limit of the species. In contrast to all other populations, which live in pure or mixed coniferous forests, the Cantabrian population is unique in inhabiting pure deciduous forests. We have assessed the existence of genetic differentiation between this and other European populations using microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) extracted from capercaillie feathers. Samples were collected between 2001 and 2004 across most of the current distribution of the Cantabrian population. Mitochondrial DNA analysis showed that the Cantabrian birds form a distinct clade with respect to all the other European populations analysed, including the Alps, Black Forest, Scandinavia and Russia, which are all members of a discrete clade. Microsatellite DNA from Cantabrian birds reveals the lowest genetic variation within the species in Europe. The existence of birds from both mtDNA clades in the Pyrenees and evidence from microsatellite frequencies for two different groups, points to the existence of a Pyrenean contact zone between European and Cantabrian type birds. The ecological and genetic differences of the Cantabrian capercaillies qualify them as an Evolutionarily Significant Unit and support the idea of the importance of the rear edge for speciation. Implications for capercaillie taxonomy and conservation are discussed.