Genetic diversity and the origin of contemporary Eastern Elk (Cervus canadensis) populations in Texas
Dunn, Christopher Dale
MetadataShow full item record
Elk (Cervus canadensis) historically are among the most widely distributed members of the deer family, occupying much of the United States, Canada, and northern Mexico. The natural distribution of this species decreased substantially in the early 20th century, presumably resulting in the extirpation of the Texas population. In the past 40 years, several herds of free-ranging elk have re-appeared in the Trans-Pecos region of Texas. It is not known if these herds were the result of introduction from captive herds, represent an expansion of a previously transplanted population from South Dakota into the Guadalupe Mountains of New Mexico and Texas, or if they represent natural emigrants from southeastern New Mexico into the Trans-Pecos region. The objective of this study was to determine the origin and genetic affinities of populations of C. canadensis in Texas. DNA sequences from the mitochondrial cytochrome-b gene and D-Loop region were examined, in combination with nine microsatellite loci, to assess genetic divergence, relationship, and origin of the contemporary elk herds in Texas. Findings of the mitochondrial sequence data depicted a high degree of relatedness among individuals throughout the sampling area; whereas, microsatellite data revealed differences in frequencies of alleles in the Glass Mountains of Texas compared to South Dakota, New Mexico, and Davis Mountain samples. Further, computer simulations of population genetic parameters using the microsatellite data supported a scenario consistent with the origin of elk in Texas probably being the result of natural emigrants from New Mexico. In addition, simulations did not detect evidence of a genetic bottleneck during the past 350 generations indicating a long, shared history between Texas and New Mexico populations.