Small-scale spatial genetic structure of Alpine chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) in Northern Dinarides
Chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) is a mountain-dwelling ungulate inhabiting predominantly rocky habitat with steep slopes. Since it mostly inhabits boreal habitats at high altitudes, low valleys tend to separate populations, thereby limiting gene flow. In the present study, we genotyped 54 georeferenced chamois using 20 SSR loci to test the influence of the Kupa River on the spatial genetic structure of the population in the bordering area between Croatia and Slovenia in the northern Dinaric Mountains. Both GENELAND and STRUCTURE assigned all individuals to one spatial cluster, indicating that the Kupa River does not represent a barrier to gene flow for chamois. Unfortunately, in 2015, a razor wire fence was constructed along the Croatian-Slovenian border at the Kupa River. This fence represents a major threat to the chamois population as it may cause mortality, obstruct seasonal dispersal, and reduce the effective population size. If the fence remains as it is, changes in the genetic structure and genetic diversity of the population due to the effect of drift and reduced effective population size can be predicted over the next generations.
KeywordsMountain ungulate Genetic structure Microsatellites Habitat fragmentation Northern Dinarides
This study was supported by the Croatian Science Foundation, project IP 2016-06-5751, “DNA as evidence of distribution and vitality of endangered Balkan chamois.” We want to express our appreciation to Robert Gec, Mladen Mauhar, Stane Frbežar, and Jernej Štefančić for providing the samples for analyses.
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