History-driven population structure and asymmetric gene flow in a recovering large carnivore at the rear-edge of its European range

A A KaramanlidisA V Stronen


Understanding the mechanisms and patterns involved in population recoveries is challenging and important in shaping conservation strategies. We used a recovering rear-edge population of brown bears at their southernmost European range in Greece as a case study (2007-2010) to explore the recovery genetics at a species' distribution edge. We used 17 microsatellite and a mitochondrial markers to evaluate genetic structure, estimate effective population size and genetic diversity, and infer gene flow between the identified subpopulations. To understand the larger picture, we also compared the observed genetic diversity of each subpopulation with other brown bear populations in the region. The results indicate that the levels of genetic diversity for bears in western Greece are the lowest recorded in southeastern Europe, but still higher than those of other genetically depauperate bear populations. Apart from a complete separation of bear populations in eastern and western Greece, our results also indicate a considerable genetic sub-structuring in the West. As bear populations in Greece are now recovering, this structure is dissolving through a "recovery cascade" of asymmetric gene flow from South to North between neighboring subpop...Continue Reading


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