Date of Completion
Honors College Thesis
C. William Kilpatrick
Mustelid, Marten, Microsatellite, Population genetics, Molecular ecology
American marten (Martes americana) was listed as endangered in Vermont in 1987 due to an absence of detection since 1954. Between 1989 and 1991, marten from Maine were reintroduced into southwestern Vermont but studies deemed the reintroduction unsuccessful. However, since 1998 marten have been detected in northeastern Vermont and are thought to represent colonization from a northern New Hampshire population. As of 2010 marten have also been detected in southwestern Vermont. The objective of this study was to provide insight into the source of the recently discovered marten population in southwestern Vermont by testing three hypotheses: (1) the northern New Hampshire population as the source of the northeastern Vermont population; (2) the southwestern Vermont population being derived by long distance dispersal from northeastern Vermont and/or northern New Hampshire populations; and (3) the southwestern Vermont population being remnants of the reintroduction. Three microsatellite loci were compared among 12 marten samples from northeastern Vermont, 3 samples from southwestern Vermont, and 12 samples from northern New Hampshire. No significant genetic differentiation existed between the populations and no samples from northern Vermont could be excluded as members of the northern New Hampshire source population, therefore the first hypothesis could not be rejected. There was evidence of a founder effect (lower genetic variation and loss of rare alleles) shown by the lower effective number of alleles for both the southern Vermont population (3.024) and northern Vermont population (3.512) as compared to the New Hampshire population (4.169), along with the presence of heterozygosity excess for both Vermont populations. There was also evidence of migration and assignment of samples from southern Vermont to the northern Vermont and New Hampshire source populations, thus the second hypothesis could not be rejected. Similar findings (lower genetic variation and loss of rare alleles) could also result from a recent bottleneck due to the reintroduction program. The third hypothesis, therefore, could not be rejected and additional supporting evidence was exhibited by a presence of different alleles in the southwestern Vermont population. Comparing the second and third hypotheses, a found effect is more likely than a bottleneck due to the inability to exclude northern Vermont and/or northern New Hampshire as a source of the southern Vermont population.
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O'Shea, Katherine A., "Genetic Study of Recent Samples of American Marten (Martes americana) from Vermont" (2014). UVM Honors College Senior Theses. 6.