Using genetic tools to estimate the prevalence of non-native red deer (Cervus elaphus) in a Western European population

Abstract : Game species like the red deer have been subjected to anthropogenic impacts for centuries. Translocations are often carried out-sometimes illegally-not only for sporting purposes, but also to increase trophy quality, reduce inbreeding, or mitigate bottlenecks after excessive persecution. Apart from the blurring of large-scale genetic structure, translocations without adequate quarantine measure risk introducing pathogens into potentially immunologically naive populations. It is therefore important to understand the frequency of clandestine translocations. Identification of non-autochthonous animals and their potential origin is often difficult and, in red deer, has been hampered by the lack of large-scale genotypic datasets for comparison. In the present study, we make use of a recently published European-wide microsatellite dataset to detect and quantify the presence of non-autochthonous red deer in a large population sample (n=1,780) from Central Europe (Belgium). Using factorial correspondence analysis, assignment tests and Bayesian clustering algorithms we arrive at an estimate of 3.7% non-autochthonous animals (or their descendants). Some of these animals were assigned to a nearby French population and may have immigrated into Belgium naturally, but the large majority must have been introduced by humans. Our analysis pointed to the British Isles and Germany/Poland as the potential origin of many introduced deer, regions known to have been source populations for translocations in Europe and beyond. We found evidence for recreational hunters using carcasses from farmed deer to fulfill mandatory hunting quotas. Our study is the first to quantify the extent of human-mediated introductions in a European game species at such a large scale with large and representative sample sizes.
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Alain C. Frantz, Frank E. Zachos, Sabine Bertouille, Marie-Christine Eloy, Marc Colyn, et al.. Using genetic tools to estimate the prevalence of non-native red deer (Cervus elaphus) in a Western European population. Ecology and Evolution, Wiley Open Access, 2017, 7 (19), pp.7650-7660. ⟨10.1002/ece3.3282⟩. ⟨hal-01631554⟩

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