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On the evolutionary history and population genetic structure of the North American mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus) Open Access


Other title
Mountain goat evolution
mountain goat
landscape genetics
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Shafer, Aaron BA
Supervisor and department
Côté, Steeve (Université Laval, Département de biologie et Centre d'études nordiques)
Coltman, David (Biological Sciences)
Examining committee member and department
Hall, Jocelyn (Biological Sciences)
Cook, Joseph (University of New Mexico, Department of Biology)
Hik, David (Biological Sciences)
Nielsen, Scott (Renewable Resources)
Department of Biological Sciences
Systematics and Evolution
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
The spatiotemporal scale at which genetic diversity is assessed can provide insights into both broad- and fine-scale patterns in ecology and evolution. I examined the distribution of genetic diversity and the evolutionary history of the North American mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus). I first reviewed how the unique physiography and glacial history of northwestern North America shaped the regions’ genetic diversity. After reviewing more than 100 published studies, I found that species with high dispersal ability or with large contemporary ranges were the most likely to have resided in multiple refugia. Shifting to mountain goats, I reexamined the phylogenetic affinities of the mountain goat using a total evidence approach and likelihood-based tests of alternative hypotheses. I evaluated all published topologies and found mountain goats to be an independent basal lineage in the Caprinae family. I then examined the phylogeographic and population structure of the mountain goat using a variety of molecular markers. I found evidence of a hitherto unknown northern and coastal refugia, and found no association between immune gene variation and refugial history. The latter finding suggests that the current distribution of immune diversity was not a direct result of the last glacial maximum. Examining the spatial genetic structure of mountain goats, I detected seventeen highly differentiated subpopulations and found that mountain ranges facilitated gene flow. I then examined the fine-scale landscape genetic structure of mountain goats by combining genetic data with mountain goat location data using geographic information systems. I showed that summer habitat used by female mountain goats was the best predictor of gene flow, and identified a suite of habitat variables important for genetic connectivity. Finally, I found that dispersing mountain goats tended to be less genetically diverse than residents, which supports the fitness-associated dispersal hypothesis. These results shed important insight on the evolution and ecology of mountain goats and have implications for conserving the alpine and its inhabitants.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
Shafer ABA, Northrup JM, White KS, Boyce MS, Côté SD, Coltman DW (In press) Habitat selection predicts genetic relatedness in an alpine ungulate. Ecology (
- 0815.1)Shafer ABA, Fan CW, Côté SD, Coltman DW (In press) (Lack of) Genetic diversity in immune genes predates glacial isolation in the North American mountain goat (Oreamnos americanus). Journal of Heredity (DOI:10.1093/jhered/ESR138)Shafer ABA, Côté SD, Coltman DW (2011) Hot spots of genetic diversity descended from multiple Pleistocene refugia in an alpine ungulate. Evolution 65: 125-138.Shafer ABA, Poissant J, Côté SD, Coltman DW (2011) Does reduced heterozygosity influence dispersal? A test using spatially structured populations in an alpine ungulate. Biology Letters 7:433-435Shafer ABA, White KS, Côté SD, Coltman DW (2011) Deciphering translocations from relicts in Baranof Island mountain goats: Is an endemic genetic lineage at risk? Conservation Genetics 12:1261-1268Shafer ABA, Hall JC (2010) Placing the mountain goat: a total evidence approach to testing alternative hypotheses. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 55:18-25Shafer ABA, Cullingham CI, Côté SD, Coltman DW (2010) Of glaciers and refugia: A decade of study sheds new light on the phylogeography of northwestern North America. Molecular Ecology 19: 4589-4621

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