Genetic and phenotypic variation among fox squirrels in eastern North Carolina

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Kendell Ray Bennett (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
Laura DeWald

Abstract: The longleaf pine (Pinus palustris Mill) ecosystem serves as habitat for the eastern fox squirrel (Sciurus niger L) in the southeastern United States and has been reduced in size and fragmented. Fragmentation often leads to loss of genetic diversity and an increase in population structure of species. To determine if this is happening in the fox squirrels of North Carolina, five microsatellite loci and phenotypic variation were used to compare geographic variation among fox squirrel populations. Fox squirrels showed a low level of population subdivision indicated by FST values of 0.010 to 0.017. In contrast, FIS values were higher (0.222 to 0.230) indicating that inbreeding could be causing a loss of genetic diversity. Linear regression showed a positive correlation between individual weight and longitude and ANOVA analysis revealed squirrels were significantly heavier and shorter west of 78°W longitude, which runs just east of Wilmington N.C. North Carolina fox squirrels were found to be less heterozygous than those of the Midwestern United States, and one locus (FO-41) showed a major decrease in heterozygosity since 1983. Future management of fox squirrels should focus on maintaining habitat and population numbers sufficient to avoid inbreeding. Introducing individuals from other areas may help to increase overall genetic diversity which should also conserve the overall fitness of North Carolina's fox squirrels as it has with other species.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2015
Fox squirrel -- North Carolina -- Genetics
Fox squirrel -- North Carolina -- Geographical distribution
Animal genetics -- Variation -- North Carolina
Animal diversity -- North Carolina
Fox squirrel -- Evolution -- North Carolina
Variation (Biology)

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