Landscape Genetics of Raccoons (Procyon lotor) in a Naturally Fragmented Coastal Landscape

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We used mitochondrial (mtDNA) and nuclear DNA markers to identify past and present dispersal corridors of raccoons (Procyon lotor) on the Virginia barrier islands and adjacent Delmarva Peninsula mainland. We analyzed a 515-basepair fragment of mtDNA (containing the 3’-end of the cytochrome-b gene, the 5’-end of the d-loop, and the intervening tRNA gene) in 164 animals from 22 localities. We detected 8 unique mtDNA sequences and found north-south differentiation on the islands and on the mainland. To draw inferences about raccoon population dynamics and genetic connectivity, we genotyped 13 nuclear microsatellite loci in 314 individuals from 24 localities. We found complex patterns of spatial population structure and migration rates in this system. These patterns suggested nonequilbrium population-genetic dynamics, potentially caused by recent founding events on the islands and spatial variation in genetic connectivity within this system. Taken together, results of this study suggest that the metapopulation structure of raccoons on the Virginia barrier islands is highly dynamic, with most movement of raccoons occurring among groups of islands that are inter-connected by marsh and relatively shallow, narrow, open-water channels. These results are consistent with our direct observations of overwater movement by raccoons within this system. These genetic data also support predictions from our models based on cost-distance analysis of landscape resistance to movement by raccoons among islands and the mainland.


American Society of Mammalogists Annual Meeting (ASM)


Minneapolis, MN