Pronghorn population genomics show connectivity in the core of their range

Melanie E.F. LaCava, Roderick B. Gagne, Sierra M. Love Stowell, Kyle D. Gustafson, C. Alex Buerkle, Lee Knox, Holly B. Ernest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Preserving connectivity in the core of a species’ range is crucial for long-term persistence. However, a combination of ecological characteristics, social behavior, and landscape features can reduce connectivity among wildlife populations and lead to genetic structure. Pronghorn (Antilocapra americana), for example, exhibit fluctuating herd dynamics and variable seasonal migration strategies, but GPS tracking studies show that landscape features such as highways impede their movements, leading to conflicting hypotheses about expected levels of genetic structure. Given that pronghorn populations declined significantly in the early 1900s, have only partially recovered, and are experiencing modern threats from landscape modification, conserving connectivity among populations is important for their long-term persistence in North America. To assess the genetic structure and diversity of pronghorn in the core of their range, we genotyped 4,949 genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphisms and 11 microsatellites from 398 individuals throughout the state of Wyoming. We found no evidence of genetic subdivision and minimal evidence of isolation by distance despite a range that spans hundreds of kilometers, multiple mountain ranges, and three interstate highways. In addition, a rare variant analysis using putatively recent mutations found no genetic division between pronghorn on either side of a major highway corridor. Although we found no evidence that barriers to daily and seasonal movements of pronghorn impede gene flow, we suggest periodic monitoring of genetic structure and diversity as a part of management strategies to identify changes in connectivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1061-1071
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Mammalogy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 31 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Gene flow
  • Genotyping by sequencing
  • Landscape barriers
  • Population genetics
  • Ungulate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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