Apr 26, 2002

Phylogeography of endemic ermine (Mustela erminea) in southeast Alaska

Molecular Ecology
Melissa A Fleming, Joseph A Cook


The North Pacific Coast (NPC) of North America is a region of high mammalian endemism, possibly due to its highly fragmented landscape and complex glacial history. For example, four island and one mainland subspecies of ermine, Mustela erminea, have been described as endemic to southeast Alaska alone. To better understand the role of past climatic change in generating diversity in the region, we examined DNA sequence variation in the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene of 210 ermine from across North America, with an emphasis on Alaska and British Columbia. We found three distinct (1.5-3.6% uncorrected 'p') lineages of ermine, all of which occur in southeast Alaska. One lineage includes a southeast Alaska endemic and specimens from Alaska (outside of southeast) and Eurasia. A second lineage includes two southeast Alaskan endemics and ermine from western Canada and the coterminous United States. The close relationships of these purported endemics to ermine outside of southeast Alaska suggest that they colonized the region from Beringian and southern glacial refugia, respectively, following deglaciation of the NPC. The third lineage appears restricted to the Prince of Wales Island complex in southeast Alaska (two subspecies) and Grah...Continue Reading

Mentioned in this Paper

DNA, Mitochondrial
Genetics, Population
Human Geography
Cytochrome b Group
Sequence Determinations, DNA

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