Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

First Advisor

Andrew P. Martin

Second Advisor

Nolan C. Kane

Third Advisor

Brett A. Melbourne

Abstract

Loss of biodiversity is a concern all over the world. While species level extinction results in the loss of whole unique organisms, reductions in range and population numbers can lead to population level extinction events resulting in the loss of unique and adaptive genetic and phenotypic diversity. Understanding the genetic relationships within and between populations across a species range will lead to a better understanding of how each population is related to another and can inform on practices to better manage and promote the survival and growth of populations. This study uses genetic data from the montane subspecies of the Gunnison’s prairie dog, Cynomys gunnisoni gunnisoni to evaluate and compare populations across the entire range of the subspecies. Prairie dogs are colonial ground squirrels whose numbers have fallen by up to 99% of historic levels. Continued pressures on prairie dog populations, including the plague, a disease which causes extreme moralities in prairie dog populations, have kept population numbers low and resulted in reductions of gene flow between extant populations, higher inbreeding, and increased possibilities of localized extinctions. Genetic markers show that genetic relationships between populations show high levels of population structure, varying degrees of diversity and low evidence of migration events occurring between sampled colonies. These results can inform on how species management activities are addressed in the future. Additionally, the mitochondrial genome of C.g.g was sequenced and incorporated into the Cynomys phylogeny, providing further insight into the evolution of the evolution of the Genus Cynomys.

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