Term of Award

Fall 1998

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Department

Department of Biology

Committee Chair

C. Ray Chandler

Committee Member 1

Qingquan Feng

Committee Member 2

Lorne M. Wolfe

Abstract

This study employed DNA Polymerase Chain Reaction (PGR) and Single-Stranded Conformation Polymorphisms (SSCP) on a mitochondrial control region target to assess population structure and possible gene flow in the Florida Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia floridana), a Florida Species of Special Concern. Although widespread in Florida, Burrowing Owls occur at low densities in semi-isolated populations that are susceptible to extirpation from human development and the demographic consequences of small population size. To better manage these populations, there is a need for data on the population genetic structure of the Florida Burrowing Owl. Therefore, I acquired DNA from Burrowing Owls from stable peninsular populations (Miami, Cape Coral, and Tampa), outlying populations in north-central Florida (Suwannee, Madison, and Gilchrist counties), and the western panhandle region (Eglin AFB), and, as an out group, populations of Athene cunicularia hypugea (Western Burrowing Owls).

Variation among 73 individuals for a 250 base pair locus in Domain I of the control region assayed as nine genotypes. Results indicated that the frequency of these genotypes varied significantly among six populations of A. c. floridana (G= 77.7, P < 0.001). No significant variation between floridana and hypugea was detected, but there was evidence of differentiation among Miami, Gulf coast birds (Tampa and Cape Coral), and the birds of the northern and panhandle populations. Genotypes were consistent with sibling and mother-offspring relationships for the maternally-inherited marker, although some questions regarding the repeatability of the SSCP assay arose.

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