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The impact of past climate change on genetic variation and population connectivity in the Icelandic arctic fox.

Mellows, Andrew and Barnett, Ross and Dalén, Love and Sandoval-Castellanos, Edson and Linderholm, Anna and McGovern, Thomas H. and Church, Mike J. and Larson, Greger (2012) 'The impact of past climate change on genetic variation and population connectivity in the Icelandic arctic fox.', Proceedings of the Royal Society series B : biological sciences., 279 (1747). pp. 4568-4573.


Previous studies have suggested that the presence of sea ice is an important factor in facilitating migration and determining the degree of genetic isolation among contemporary arctic fox populations. Because the extent of sea ice is dependent upon global temperatures, periods of significant cooling would have had a major impact on fox population connectivity and genetic variation. We tested this hypothesis by extracting and sequencing mitochondrial control region sequences from 17 arctic foxes excavated from two late 9th-12th century AD archaeological sites in northeast Iceland, both of which predate the Little Ice Age (~16th-19th century). Despite the fact that five haplotypes have been observed in modern Icelandic foxes, a single haplotype was shared among all of the ancient individuals. Results from simulations within an approximate Bayesian computation framework suggest that the rapid increase in Icelandic arctic fox haplotype diversity can only be explained by sea ice-mediated fox immigration facilitated by the Little Ice Age.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Island biogeography, Phylogeography, Ancient DNA, Approximate Bayesian computation.
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:11 September 2012
Date of first online publication:No date available
Date first made open access:No date available

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