Genetic relationships of North American bears (Ursus) inferred from amplified fragment length polymorphisms and mitochondrial DNA sequences

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The three species of bears in North America, polar bears (Ursus maritimus Phipps, 1774), brown bears (Ursus arctos L., 1758), and black bears (Ursus americanus Pallas, 1780), have differentiated morphologies and nuclear and mitochondrial genomes. An exception is a paraphyletic mitochondrial DNA relationship and some nuclear gene lineages common to polar bears and a population of brown bears from islands in southeast Alaska. In this study, we quantified the genetic relationships of extant brown bears and black bears from Alaska and Montana, and polar bears from Alaska, with amplified fragment length polymorphisms (AFLP) and mtDNA cytochrome-b sequences. Bayesian cluster analyses of the AFLP data show each species is distinct. All brown bears, including those from the islands in southeast Alaska, cluster separately from polar bears, and black bears cluster separately from brown bears and polar bears. The mtDNA of polar bears and southeast Alaska island brown bears is paraphyletic as reported previously, but the species have different haplotypes. These data indicate that extant populations of brown bears and polar bears have separate nuclear and mitochondrial gene pools and are supported as species under the genetic species concept.

Keywords: ADN mitochondrial; Ursus americanus; Ursus arctos; Ursus maritimus; amplified fragment length polymorphism; bears; cytochrome b; mitochondrial DNA; ours; polymorphisme de longueur de fragments amplifiés

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK 99645, USA. 2: Department of Biological Sciences, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX 79409, USA.

Publication date: January 1, 2013

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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