Molecular comparison of historical and contemporary pine marten (Martes martes) populations in the British Isles : Evidence of differing origins and fates, and implications for conservation management

Jordan, Neil R. and Messenger, John and Turner, Peter and Croose, Elizabeth and Birks, Johnny and O'Reilly, Catherine (2012) Molecular comparison of historical and contemporary pine marten (Martes martes) populations in the British Isles : Evidence of differing origins and fates, and implications for conservation management. Conservation Genetics, 13 (5). pp. 1195-1212. ISSN 1566-0621

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We investigated the origins and persistence of European pine marten (Martes martes) populations across the British Isles by identifying mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences from contemporary populations (sampled since 1981) and comparing these with those of older 'historical' museum specimens (pre-1981) originally collected from the same geographic areas. Excluding Scotland, where the haplotype composition of populations appears to be unchanged, haplotypes found in contemporary and historical marten populations elsewhere differed both temporally and geographically. While these data suggest that the contemporary Irish population is descended from a relict population that passed through an early to mid 1900s bottleneck, the historical and contemporary English and Welsh populations differ in their abundance of specific mtDNA control region haplotypes. These data appear to suggest that particular haplotypes may have been lost from England and Wales at some point in the early to mid 1900s, but further nuclear DNA work is required to determine whether this shift has occurred by rapid genetic drift in the mtDNA control region or whether relict populations have been replaced by pine martens from elsewhere. If the reported shifts in mtDNA haplotypes reflect population extirpation events, historical pine marten populations of England and Wales would appear to have become extinct in the twentieth century (in Wales after 1950 and in England after 1924). Additionally, the recent occurrence of haplotypes originating from continental Europe, and of M. americana, suggest that relict populations of England and Wales have been replaced by, or hybridised with, occasional released, escaped and/or translocated animals. The implications of these results for pine marten conservation, and particularly reintroduction, are discussed.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Funding Information: Acknowledgements This project was primarily funded by Natural England via their Countdown 2010 scheme. Further funding was provided by: Environment Wales; Countryside Council for Wales; The Chapman Charitable Trust; The D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust; The John S Cohen Charitable Trust; The Robert Clutterbuck Charitable Trust and The Steel Charitable Trust. The Forestry Commission, National Trust and various private landowners kindly provided access permissions and support to conduct surveys. Special thanks are due to a vast army of volunteer surveyors. Angus Davison and David Bal-harry kindly provided additional location data for some Scottish samples. The location of historical specimens in Yorkshire was aided by Colin Howes. Many thanks to all collaborating collections and their staff who provided samples: Brecknock Museum (Nigel Blackamore); Cliffe Castle museum, Keighley (John Dallas); Dorman Museum, Middlesbrough (Zoe Wilson); Elgin Museum (Janet Tryt-hall); Grosvenor Museum, Chester (Kate Riddington); Haybridge Nature Reserve (Keith Loxam); Illfracombe Museum (Sue Pullen); Inverness Museum and Art Gallery (Jeanette Pearson); Kendal Museum (Carol Davis); Manchester Museum (Henry McGhie and Judith White); National Museum of Wales, Cardiff (Peter Howlett); National Museums Liverpool (Tony Parker); Natural History Museum Dublin (Nigel Monaghan); Natural History Museum London (Richard Sabin); National Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh (Andrew Kitchener); New Walk Museum (Mark Evans); Norwich Castle Museum (Tony Irwin); Oxford University Museum of Natural History (Malgosia Nowak-Kemp); Sheffield City Museum (Alistair McLean); Tolson Memorial Museum, Huddersfield (Chris Yeates); Tullie House Museum, Carlisle (Stephen Hewitt). Thanks also to the following zoological collections and individuals for sending us material from captive animals: British Wildlife Centre (Matt Binstead); Chestnut Centre Conservation Park (Rebecca Wood); Highland Wildlife Park, Kingussie; New Forest Otter, Owl and Wildlife Park (Jason Palmer); Scottish SPCA (Colin Seddon); Wildwood Trust (Judi Dunn); Huw Denman and Martin Noble. We thank Henry Schofield for laboriously preparing the map figures and, along with Natalie Buttriss, Peter
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Date Deposited: 19 Oct 2022 23:03
Last Modified: 07 Jun 2023 18:42

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