Examining Current Subspecies Delineations in White-tailed Ptarmigan Using Genomic Data

Research Project: 

RB00CNJ.26.1

Project Manager: 

Sara Oyler-McCance
A White-tailed Ptarmigan on Mt. Evans, Colorado. Photo by Cameron Aldridge, USGS.
A White-tailed Ptarmigan on Mt. Evans, Colorado. Photo by Cameron Aldridge, USGS.

The delineation of populations that are evolutionarily and demographically distinct is an important step in the development of species-specific management plans. Such knowledge is necessary for learning how conservation threats vary across a species’ range, for devising strategies to increase population growth rates, and for providing legal protection at the intraspecific level. It is also essential for conserving long-term evolutionary resilience, given that the genetic diversity that has evolved in response to spatial variation in environmental conditions could provide the raw ingredients necessary to fuel future adaptive evolution. We are using genomic data to delineate distinct evolutionary units across the range of the white-tailed ptarmigan. This information will inform management strategies for this alpine species, which may be vulnerable to climate change.