Moose (Alces alces) are highly mobile mammals that occur across arboreal regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. Alaskan moose (Alces alces gigas) range across much of Alaska and are primary herbivore consumers, exerting a prominent influence on ecosystem structure and functioning. Increased knowledge gained from population genetics provides insights into their population dynamics, history, and dispersal of these unique large herbivores and can aid in conservation efforts. We examined the genetic diversity and population structure of moose (n = 141) with 8 polymorphic microsatellites from 6 regions spanning much of Alaska. Expected heterozygosity was moderate (HE = 0.483-0.612), and private alleles ranged from 0 to 6. Both FST and RST indicated significant population structure (P < 0.001) with FST < 0.109 and RST < 0.125. Results of analyses from STRUCTURE indicated 2 prominent population groups, a mix of moose from the Yakutat and Tetlin regions versus all other moose, with slight substructure observed among the second population. Estimates of dispersal differed between analytical approaches, indicating a high level of historical or current gene flow. Mantel tests indicated that isolation-by-distance partially explained observed structure among moose populations (R2 = 0.45, P < 0.01). Finally, there was no evidence of bottlenecks either at the population level or overall. We conclude that weak population structure occurs among moose in Alaska with population expansion from interior Alaska westward toward the coast.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology