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Present genetic structure revealed by microsatellites reflects recent history of the Finnish moose (Alces alces)

Kangas, Veli-Matti, Kvist, Laura, Laaksonen, Sauli, Nygrén, Tuire, Aspi, Jouni
European journal of wildlife research 2013 v.59 no.5 pp. 613-627
Alces alces, anthropogenic activities, genetic variation, humans, microsatellite repeats, population dynamics, population structure, Finland, Scandinavia
Genetic structures of Holarctic species are largely formed by Pleistocene colonisation history, dispersal capacity and interactions between biotic and abiotic factors, even though the human impact can also be significant. The Holarctic moose (Alces alces) arrived in Fennoscandia around 9,000–8,000 years ago, and it has been exploited by humans ever since. During the last 400 years, the Finnish moose population has suffered from several population declines, and even local and regional extirpations have occurred. The purpose of the present study is to describe the genetic variation and population structure of the Finnish moose in order to clarify how historical events and human exploitation have influenced the present-day genetic patterns. Altogether 130 moose individuals from seven sampling sites in Finland were analysed at ten microsatellite loci. A variety of population genetic and coalescent-based methods was applied. The Finnish moose population was found to be divided into southern and northern subpopulations with additional lower hierarchical genetic structure. The estimated time of divergence between these two subpopulations was about 96–238 years ago. In addition, an isolation-by-distance pattern was discovered.