ESR 36:183-196 (2018)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00898

Evaluating a potential source of founders for ex situ conservation efforts: genetic differentiation between disjunct populations of the Endangered red siskin Spinus cucullatus

Kathryn M. Rodríguez-Clark1,2,5,6,*, Brian Davidson2,3, Sarah Kingston2,7, Brian J. Coyle2, Pierre Duchesne4, Michael J. Braun2,3

1Centro de Ecología, Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas (IVIC), Caracas 1020-A, Venezuela
2Department of Vertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20013-7012, USA
3Behavior, Ecology, Evolution and Systematics Program, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA
4Département de Biologie, Université Laval, Québec, Québec G1V 0A6, Canada
5Present address: Provita, Caracas 1060, Venezuela
6Present address: Animal Care Sciences, Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, MRC 5507, Washington, DC, 20013-7012, USA
7Present address: Department of Biology, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME 04011, USA

ABSTRACT: Captive breeding and reintroduction can be effective conservation tools, but the origin of founders for such programs is key for success. The red siskin Spinus cucullatus, a bird from northern South America, is Critically Endangered in Venezuela due to decades of trapping for the illegal wildlife trade. As a result, many red siskins are held in captivity worldwide, but several potential problems with captive birds make considering founders from the wild more desirable. A recently discovered population of red siskins in Guyana presents such an opportunity, but, due to its disjunct distribution from the main range, the possibility of genetic differentiation is a concern. We used a variety of standard and novel analyses of amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) and mitochondrial (mtDNA) markers to evaluate genetic divergence of the Guyana (GU) population, using 5 individuals from GU and 13 captive birds of presumed Venezuelan (‘VE’) origin. All analyses of nuclear loci revealed 2 clusters separating GU from ‘VE’ individuals, with FST values varying from 0.15 to 0.24, depending on assumptions about individual relatedness. Furthermore, all 5 GU birds shared an mtDNA haplotype that differed by 2 or more substitutions (0.11%) from the 3 ‘VE’ haplotypes. The GU population thus appears to be differentiated from the ‘VE’ population in both nuclear and mtDNA. While further genetic evidence is needed, these data suggest that the GU population is not an optimal source of founders for recovery efforts in Venezuela, and should be treated as a separate elemental conservation unit until additional data are available.


KEY WORDS: Amplified fragment length polymorphism · AFLP · Captive breeding · Elemental conservation unit · Ex situ conservation · Genetic founders · Illegal wildlife trade


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Cite this article as: Rodríguez-Clark KM, Davidson B, Kingston S, Coyle BJ, Duchesne P, Braun MJ (2018) Evaluating a potential source of founders for ex situ conservation efforts: genetic differentiation between disjunct populations of the Endangered red siskin Spinus cucullatus. Endang Species Res 36:183-196. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00898

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