Genetic Population Structure of Mule Deer Odocoileus Hemionus Across Montana

Scientific Disciplines
Biological Sciences - Terrestrial
Keywords
Ecology
Montana
mule deer
Odocoileus
mitochondrial genome
dispersal
odocoileus hemionus
genetic structure
Authors
Volumes
Volume 18, No. 1-4
Years

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Genetic population structure of mule deer 
Odocoileus hemionus across montana
John H. Powell*, Department of Ecology, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana, 59717
Steven T. Kalinowski, Department of Ecology, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana, 
59717
Megan D. Higgs, Department of Mathematical Sciences, Montana State University, Bozeman, 
Montana, 59717
Paul C. Cross, Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Bozeman, 
Montana, 59715
We conducted a genetic assessment of mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) population 
structure across Montana in an effort to understand dispersal routes across the landscape. 
To assess genetic structure we genotyped 14 microsatellite loci in 359 individuals sampled 
primarily within Montana. Smaller samples were included from Wyoming, Colorado and 
Utah in order to provide a regional context for the levels of population structure observed 
within Montana. Additionally, we sequenced the control region of the mitochondrial 
genome of 76 individuals subsampled from our original samples across Montana. To avoid 
potential influences of a priori population designations, individual based analyses were 
used to test relatedness across the landscape. Weak isolation by distance characterized mule 
deer individuals across this region. In addition, we did not detect any evidence of spatial 
autocorrelation in discrete distance classes as small as 10 km. Female mule deer had higher 
average individual pairwise genetic distances than males, indicating the presence of a 



contemporary male bias in dispersal rates. Mitochondrial DNA indicated the potential for 
either reduced overall or female-specific dispersal between a subset of the sampling regions 
within Montana. Finally, we were unable to detect a genetic signature of past translocations 
of mule deer across Montana. Taken together these results indicate that within this landscape 
mule deer populations are characterized by high levels of connectivity and experience few, if 
any, barriers to dispersal.