Research Article

Genetic status of the wood stork (Mycteria americana) from the southeastern United States and the Brazilian Pantanal as revealed by mitochondrial DNA analysis

Published: August 30, 2011
Genet. Mol. Res. 10 (3) : 1910-1922 DOI: 10.4238/vol10-3gmr1217

Abstract

The wood stork (Mycteria americana) is a colonial wading bird that inhabits the Neotropical region from the southeastern United States (US) to northern Argentina. The species is considered to be endangered in the US due to degradation of its foraging and breeding habitat. In other parts of its range, such as in the Brazilian Pantanal region, breeding populations of this species appear to be stable. We compared the levels of genetic variability and population structuring of the US and the Pantanal breeding populations using mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region sequences. Twenty-seven haplotypes were identified among 88 wood stork samples collected from eight breeding colonies in the US and eight in the Pantanal. Patterns indicative of heteroplasmy were observed in 35.3% of the mtDNA sequences that were examined. Significantly higher levels of haplotype diversity were observed in the Pantanal samples compared to those from the US, suggesting that during the last century, demographic declines or a recent evolutionary bottleneck reduced the levels of mtDNA variability of the US population. Analyses of genetic structuring revealed non-significant genetic differentiation between these regions, indicating that either the populations were only recently separated or that gene flow continues to occur at low levels. Haplotype network analysis indicated low current levels of gene flow between populations that were closely related in the past.

The wood stork (Mycteria americana) is a colonial wading bird that inhabits the Neotropical region from the southeastern United States (US) to northern Argentina. The species is considered to be endangered in the US due to degradation of its foraging and breeding habitat. In other parts of its range, such as in the Brazilian Pantanal region, breeding populations of this species appear to be stable. We compared the levels of genetic variability and population structuring of the US and the Pantanal breeding populations using mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region sequences. Twenty-seven haplotypes were identified among 88 wood stork samples collected from eight breeding colonies in the US and eight in the Pantanal. Patterns indicative of heteroplasmy were observed in 35.3% of the mtDNA sequences that were examined. Significantly higher levels of haplotype diversity were observed in the Pantanal samples compared to those from the US, suggesting that during the last century, demographic declines or a recent evolutionary bottleneck reduced the levels of mtDNA variability of the US population. Analyses of genetic structuring revealed non-significant genetic differentiation between these regions, indicating that either the populations were only recently separated or that gene flow continues to occur at low levels. Haplotype network analysis indicated low current levels of gene flow between populations that were closely related in the past.