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Genetic Maps Help Conservation Managers Maintain Healthy Bears

Mizzou researchers provide detailed “genetic maps” that could help conservation management officials maintain healthy bear populations throughout North America. Credit: Missouri Dept. of Conservation, courtesy of MU News Bureau. 

 

Emily Puckett determined that black bears in Alaska are more closely related to bears in the eastern regions of the U.S. and Canada than those in western regions. Credit: Melody Kroll, Division of Biological Sciences, courtesy of MU News Bureau. 


Last year, researchers at the University of Missouri published a study on genetic diversity in American black bears in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma and determined that conservation management is needed to maintain healthy populations in the region. Now, those scientists have expanded the study to include black bears throughout North America. They discovered that black bears in Alaska are more closely related to bears in the eastern regions of the U.S. and Canada than those located in western regions. Details from the study revealed ancient movement patterns of black bears and provide detailed “genetic maps” that could help conservation management officials maintain healthy bear populations throughout North America.

“This is the first genomics study of black bears across their range,” said Emily Puckett, who recently received her doctoral degree from the College of Arts and Science at MU. “Using advanced nuclear genomics, the team delineated three geographic lineages of bears in the western eastern regions of North America and in Alaska. After identifying the three lineages, the team delineated them into nine geographically relevant regional clusters to better understand the relationships of populations within each cluster.”

The most prevalent method used in studying the distribution of genetic lineages across a species range, is to tap into the mitochondrial DNA of the cell, which mammals inherit only from their mother. Using more advanced techniques, Puckett and her team, including Lori Eggert, an associate professor in the Division of Biological Sciences, performed nuclear genomic testing by analyzing the nuclear genome that carries vastly more genes and information about a species. The team received more than 500 black bear DNA samples from wildlife agencies, universities and other private partners.

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Campus: UMC
Key words: Agriculture, Innovation, MU Campus, Science,
County: Boone

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