Population structure and recent temporal changes in genetic variation in Eurasian otters from Sweden
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- Tison, JL., Blennow, V., Palkopoulou, E. et al. Conserv Genet (2015) 16: 371. doi:10.1007/s10592-014-0664-2
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The Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) population in Sweden went through a drastic decline in population size between the 1950s and 1980s, caused mostly by anthropogenic factors such as high hunting pressure and the introduction of environmental toxic chemicals into the otter’s habitats. However, after the bans of PCBs and DDT in the 1970s, the population began to recover in the 1990s. This study compares microsatellite data across twelve loci from historical and contemporary otter samples to investigate whether there has been a change in population structure and genetic diversity across time in various locations throughout Sweden. The results suggest that otters in the south were more severely affected by the bottleneck, demonstrated by a decline in genetic diversity and a shift in genetic composition. In contrast, the genetic composition in otters from northern Sweden remained mostly unchanged, both in terms of population structure and diversity. This suggests that the decline was not uniform across the country. Moreover, our analyses of historical samples provide an overview of the level of genetic variation and population structure that existed prior to the bottleneck, which may be helpful for the future management and conservation of the species.