Phylogeography -- Florida -- Florida Keys, Rabbits -- Conservation -- Florida -- Florida Keys, Rabbits -- Evolution -- Florida -- Florida Keys, Rabbits -- Florida -- Florida Keys -- Genetics, Rabbits -- Florida -- Florida Keys -- Morphology, Rabbits -- Florida -- Florida Keys -- Phylogeny, Sylvilagus -- Conservation -- Florida -- Florida Keys, Sylvilagus -- Evolution -- Florida -- Florida Keys, Sylvilagus -- Florida -- Florida Keys -- Genetics, Sylvilagus -- Florida -- Florida Keys -- Morphology, Sylvilagus -- Florida -- Florida Keys -- Phylogeny
Subspecific taxonomic designations solely based on morphological characters can often lead to erroneous assumptions about the evolutionary history of populations. This study sought to investigate evolutionary questions and conservation implications associated with morphological subspecific designations of island populations. To this end, I focused my attention on the Lower Keys of Florida, a unique chain of islands with well-known geologic history and rich in endemic, endangered subspecies. I employed genetic analyses to evaluate historical variation and contemporary restriction of gene flow between the endangered Lower Keys marsh rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris hefneri) and its sister mainland taxa. A Bayesian phylogeny using 1063 base pairs of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene did not recover reciprocal monophyly of the three named subspecies, and a 95% statistical parsimony haplotype network showed haplotypes being shared among subspecies. Furthermore, clustering analyses using 10 microsatellite loci identified a break within the Lower Keys, separating the western Lower Keys from the island of Big Pine Key. Surprisingly, Big Pine Key grouped with mainland populations and exhibits higher genetic diversity than the western Lower Keys islands. These unexpected findings suggest either a stepping-stone colonization pattern or recent gene flow between the mainland and Big Pine Key via natural dispersal or undocumented man-mediated transfers. Although these results suggest that subspecies designations within S. palustris are unwarranted, this study supports the designation western Lower Keys population as a discrete unit of conservation with regard to both DPS and ESU criteria. The importance of using several lines of evidence to uncover the evolutionary history of populations and implications for the conservation of island populations are discussed.
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Master of Science (M.S.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Dissertations, Academic -- Sciences, Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic
Tursi, Rosanna M., "Taxonomy Versus Phylogeny Phylogeography Of Marsh Rabbits Without Hopping To Conclusions" (2010). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2004-2019. 1690.