Examining Range-wide Connectivity in White-tailed Ptarmigan

Research Project: 

RB00CNJ.26.3

Project Manager: 

Katie Langin
A White-tailed Ptarmigan on Mt. Evans in Colorado. Photo by Cameron Aldridge, USGS.
A White-tailed Ptarmigan on Mt. Evans in Colorado. Photo by Cameron Aldridge, USGS.

The goal of this study is to document levels of connectivity among white-tailed ptarmigan populations. Our preliminary results, based on microsatellite loci, revealed that there is significant population genetic structure throughout the species’ range. The Colorado and Vancouver Island populations were the most isolated and there was limited connectivity among populations in Alaska, the Yukon, Washington, and Montana. There is little evidence for movement from Colorado northward or from Vancouver Island eastward, raising concerns for the long term viability of two subspecies. As these areas are most impacted by climate change, this lack of connectivity to the core part of the range may have implications for the species’ ability to track shifting habitats due to warming climates.