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The Condor


Conservation of intraspecific variation is a growing focus of conservation biology. Island populations can make up a large portion of the variation of widespread species, as they are often isolated and exhibit differences in phenotype and genetic structure compared with mainland populations. We genotyped 169 Pacific Wrens (Troglodytes pacificus) from 9 locations and 6 subspecies in Alaska, USA, and British Columbia, Canada, to examine the population structure, genetic diversity, and likelihood of genetic rescue of island populations of conservation concern. We found that 25% of genetic variation was partitioned among conservation units delineated by subspecies, suggesting that the present framework of managing subspecies as separate units is warranted. Populations found farthest from possible mainland sources had the lowest genetic diversity. The Attu Island population, subspecies T. p. meligerus, had the lowest genetic diversity and highest genetic divergence of all sampled locations, a signal also found in Attu Island populations of Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) and Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus muta). Currently, populations in western Alaska are unlikely to be connected to populations in mainland locations through dispersal, and thus are unlikely candidates for natural genetic or demographic rescue.

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