Population genetic structure of the provincially endangered mainland Eastern Moose (Alces americanus americanus) in Nova Scotia, Canada

Brittni Scott, G. Randy Milton, Scott McBurney, Donald T. Stewart

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Abstract

Eastern Moose (Alces americanus americanus (Clinton, 1822)) on mainland Nova Scotia (MNS) are declining and experience limited immigration across the Isthmus of Chignecto from the larger population in neighbouring New Brunswick. Provincially Endangered, the recovery strategy for MNS Moose involves mitigating various threats that may lead to local extirpation. We examine genetic diversity of MNS Moose using microsatellite markers and mitochondrial (mtDNA) control region sequences. Genetic similarities with the Alces a. americana population in New Brunswick and the introduced Northwestern Moose (Alces americanus andersoni (= Alces alces andersoni) Peterson, 1952) population on Cape Breton Island are also analysed. Observed heterozygosity for microsatellites for MNS Moose was low and there was also evidence of limited gene flow between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick across the narrow Isthmus of Chignecto that connects these provinces. Consistent with relatively recent colonization of North America by Moose dispersing across the Bering Land Bridge <15 000 years ago, mtDNA haplotypes of MNS Moose were identical or extremely similar to haplotypes found across North America. However, mtDNA diversity was lower in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick than in more central regions of the species’ range. Active measures to maintain habitat that promote connectivity across the Isthmus of Chignecto would likely be valuable for Moose in terms of maintaining genetic variation in the region and reducing inbreeding.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-149
Number of pages14
JournalCanadian Field-Naturalist
Volume137
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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