Little to No Genetic Differentiation in Wyoming’s Pronghorn

Written by on June 12, 2020

It seems a pronghorn family reunion would be very crowded – and not very diverse.

A new study, lead by University of Wyoming Ph.D. candidate Melanie LaCava, has been studying the genetics of Wyoming’s pronghorn herds. Wyoming is home to roughly half of North America’s pronghorn population – approximately 750,000 individuals. Their findings show that, despite multiple mountain ranges, three major highways, and ranges that span hundreds of miles, Wyoming’s pronghorn have little-to-no genetic differentiation. Despite the massive barriers across the state, in doesn’t seem to have caused any changes amongst pronghorn.

On a genetic level, they all look pretty much alike.

The study included sample collection from 2014 thru 2019, examined genetic data of 398 male and female pronghorn across Wyoming, excluding Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. While certain surprising, this lack of diversity makes sense given how the animals behave. Pronghorn are social animals, but many do not live in the same groups for their whole lives. They enjoy a much more flexible social structure than Wyoming’s other hoof stock. Many don’t even consistently migrate. To LaCava, it shows the connectivity of all of the state’s pronghorn. All the barriers, human or natural, have not stopped them from mingling with their peers. But this does not detract from the importance of preserving their migration corridors and core habitats – we want to ensure their populations stay happy and healthy.

You can examine the full study – Pronghorn Population Genomics Show Connectivity in the Core of Their Range – in the online publication Journal of Mammalogy.

 


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