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Population genetic structure of a recovering otter (Lutra lutra) population in the UK

Hobbs, Geoffrey Iwan 2010. Population genetic structure of a recovering otter (Lutra lutra) population in the UK. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.

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The aim of this study was to identify the genetic structure of the expanding UK otter population. To do this I undertook detailed analysis of methodologies from the emerging field of landscape genetics. I compared the Bayesian Clustering methodologies, culminating in recommendations on how to interpret the results of the available software. Further to this I devised a novel progressive partitioning method, incorporating GIS (geographical information systems) to allow the clustering results of the different software packages to be compared and combined, producing a more robust interpretation of clustering results. The effect of landscape features on otter movement was explored using GIS by mapping individuals on cost grids of landscape features and identifying the degree to which dispersal is influenced by the landscape, by correlating effective distance with genetic distance. Inspiration was taken from recent advances in landscape genetics and required the development of these techniques to achieve the aims of the project as a result this thesis also contributes to the advancement of this field of research. This study identified that there are four regional otter populations in the UK with little or no gene flow between them. The recovering otter populations in the strongholds of North England, Wales and Borders and Southwest England appear not to be contributing to expansion of the once fragmented, unviable population in Central England. This population has been subject to captive bred re-introductions by the Otter Trust. Despite the apparent success of the reintroductions, questions have arisen about the origin of the released individuals and their conservation implications. Further sub-structuring was identified in all of the regional populations and potential reasons explored. The Wales and Borders region was singled out for further analysis, to identify the influence of landscape features on the genetic structure. The highly urban areas of southeast Wales appeared to be acting as a barrier to dispersal between sub-regions. Correlations between genetic and effective distances (created from resistance-to-movement surfaces) suggest that upland habitat and slope contribute to the genetic sub-structuring the Cambrian and Brecon Beacon mountain ranges act as permeable barriers, restricting the amount of gene flow and help to create the identified sub-regions.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Biosciences
Subjects: Q Science > QL Zoology
ISBN: 9781303217920
Funders: Environment Agency
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Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 10 Jan 2018 03:07

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