Conservation of genetic uniqueness in remaining populations of red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris L.) in the South of England

Hardouin, Emilie A.; Baltazar‐Soares, Miguel; Schilling, Anna‐Katarina; Butler, Helen; García‐Rodríguez, Oxala; Crowley, Eloise; Liang, Wei‐Jun; Meredith, Anna; Lurz, Peter W.W.; Forster, Jane; Kenward, Robert E.; Hodder, Kathy H.. 2019 Conservation of genetic uniqueness in remaining populations of red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris L.) in the South of England. Ecology and Evolution, 9 (11). 6547-6558.

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The Eurasian red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) is an emblematic species for conservation, and its decline in the British Isles exemplifies the impact that alien introductions can have on native ecosystems. Indeed, red squirrels in this region have declined dramatically over the last 60 years due to the spread of squirrelpox virus following the introduction of the gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis). Currently, red squirrel populations in Britain are fragmented and need to be closely monitored in order to assess their viability and the effectiveness of conservation efforts. The situation is even more dramatic in the South of England, where S. vulgaris survives only on islands (Brownsea Island, Furzey Island, and the Isle of Wight). Using the D‐loop, we investigated the genetic diversity and putative ancestry of the squirrels from Southern England and compared them to a European dataset composed of 1,016 samples from 54 populations. We found that our three populations were more closely related to other squirrels from the British Isles than squirrels from Europe, showed low genetic diversity, and also harbored several private haplotypes. Our study demonstrates how genetically unique the Southern English populations are in comparison with squirrels from the continental European range. We report the presence of four private haplotypes, suggesting that these populations may potentially harbor distinct genetic lineages. Our results emphasize the importance of preserving these isolated red squirrel populations for the conservation of the species.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: UKCEH Fellows
ISSN: 2045-7758
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: conservation, endangered population, mtDNA, phylogeography, Sciurus vulgaris
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 19 Jun 2019 13:48 +0 (UTC)

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