Conservation Genetics

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 369–383 | Cite as

Small geographic range but not panmictic: how forests structure the endangered Point Arena mountain beaver (Aplodontia rufa nigra)

  • William J. Zielinski
  • Fredrick V. Schlexer
  • Sean A. Parks
  • Kristine L. Pilgrim
  • Michael K. Schwartz
Research Article


The landscape genetics framework is typically applied to broad regions that occupy only small portions of a species’ range. Rarely is the entire range of a taxon the subject of study. We examined the landscape genetic structure of the endangered Point Arena mountain beaver (Aplodontia rufa nigra), whose isolated geographic range is found in a restricted (85 km2) but heterogenous region in California. Based on its diminutive range we may predict widespread gene flow and a relatively weak role for landscape variation in defining genetic structure. We used skin, bone, tissue and noninvasively collected hair samples to describe genetic substructure and model gene flow. We examined spatial partitioning of multilocus DNA genotypes and mitochondrial DNA haplotypes. We identified 3 groups from microsatellite data, all of which had low estimates of effective population size consistent with significant tests for historical bottlenecks. We used least-cost-path analysis with the microsatellites to examine how vegetation type affects gene flow in a landscape genetics framework. Gene flow was best predicted by a model with “Forest” as the most permeable, followed by “Riparian”. Agricultural lands demonstrated the highest resistance. MtDNA data revealed only two haplotypes: one was represented in all 57 individuals that occurred north of the east–west flowing Garcia River. South of the river, however, both haplotypes occurred, often at the same site suggesting that the river may have affected historical patterns of genetic divergence.


Landscape genetics Genetic substructure Mountain beaver Aplodontia rufa California 



We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Arcata office of the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the assistance of Robin Hamlin and John Hunter. The Pacific Southwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service, also contributed financial support for this study. Renee Pasquinelli (California Department of Parks and Recreation) provided administrative support. We appreciate the field assistance of Angela Liebenberg, Robert Douglas, Nina A. Nahvi, and Skylar C. Giordano. Kaytee Redfern helped in the laboratory and Janet Werren assisted with developing figures. Access to land was facilitated by Marty Hillscan and William Marshall (City of Point Arena), Matt Matijczyk (Point Arena Tileworks), Denise and Andy Fisher, the McConnell family, Steve Miller and the Mendocino Redwood Company. We thank John Hunter for edits on an earlier version of the manuscript. The research was authorized under Federal Fish and Wildlife Permit #TE080774-3 and California state permit #801091-04.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 16 kb)
10592_2012_387_MOESM2_ESM.docx (18 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 17 kb)
10592_2012_387_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (1.2 mb)
Supplementary material 3 (PDF 1229 kb)


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Copyright information

© • Springer Science+Business Media B.V. (outside the USA) 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • William J. Zielinski
    • 1
  • Fredrick V. Schlexer
    • 1
  • Sean A. Parks
    • 3
  • Kristine L. Pilgrim
    • 2
  • Michael K. Schwartz
    • 2
  1. 1.USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research StationArcataUSA
  2. 2.USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research StationMissoulaUSA
  3. 3.USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research StationAldo Leopold Wilderness Research InstituteMissoulaUSA

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