Research Article

Genetic structure in Brazilian breeding colonies of the Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja, Aves: Threskiornithidae)

Published: May 31, 2007
Genet. Mol. Res. 6 (2) : 338-347

Abstract

Roseate Spoonbills (Platalea ajaja, Linnaeus) are wading birds present in two of the most important Brazilian wetlands: the Pantanal wetlands and Rio Grande do Sul marshes. Natural populations of these species have not been previously studied with variable nuclear molecular markers. In order to support decision making regarding the management and conservation of these populations, we estimated and characterized the distribution of genetic variability among five Brazilian breeding colonies. The average observed heterozygosity in Brazilian Roseate Spoonbill populations (Ho = 0.575) did not differ significantly from the value determined in a U.S. wild-caught sample of 15 individuals, using data generated by the same set of microsatellite loci. Considering that the U.S. population underwent a recent reduction in size, we discuss this result supposing that the U.S. population was not genetically affected or that both populations had suffered a bottleneck. Global FST indicated the lack of genetic differentiation among colonies, indicating the occurrence of past and/or present gene flow among them. Analysis of molecular variance revealed that most of the genetic variation is distributed within the colonies. Results are explained by a recent origin of colonies or by high levels of gene flow. Management decisions should take into consideration the fact that, even in the presence of high genetic exchange, ecological adaptations to different environments are important for species survival.

Roseate Spoonbills (Platalea ajaja, Linnaeus) are wading birds present in two of the most important Brazilian wetlands: the Pantanal wetlands and Rio Grande do Sul marshes. Natural populations of these species have not been previously studied with variable nuclear molecular markers. In order to support decision making regarding the management and conservation of these populations, we estimated and characterized the distribution of genetic variability among five Brazilian breeding colonies. The average observed heterozygosity in Brazilian Roseate Spoonbill populations (Ho = 0.575) did not differ significantly from the value determined in a U.S. wild-caught sample of 15 individuals, using data generated by the same set of microsatellite loci. Considering that the U.S. population underwent a recent reduction in size, we discuss this result supposing that the U.S. population was not genetically affected or that both populations had suffered a bottleneck. Global FST indicated the lack of genetic differentiation among colonies, indicating the occurrence of past and/or present gene flow among them. Analysis of molecular variance revealed that most of the genetic variation is distributed within the colonies. Results are explained by a recent origin of colonies or by high levels of gene flow. Management decisions should take into consideration the fact that, even in the presence of high genetic exchange, ecological adaptations to different environments are important for species survival.

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