Update from Shem D. Unger and Rod N. Williams, 2010 Recipients of the Ron Goellner Conservation Grant
Population Genetics of the Eastern Hellbender (Cryptobanchus alleganiensis alleganiensis) at multiple spatial scales
Shem D. Unger and Rod N. Williams
Project Summary: The genetic ramifications eastern hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis) population declines are currently unknown. To this end, we developed a suite of 12 hyper-variable genetic markers (microsatellites) to examine levels of gene flow, genetic variation, and genetic structure at both local and regional scales. Thus far, we have collected over 900 individuals from ~50 rivers throughout 11 states. Overall levels of genetic diversity were relatively high among all sampling locations and significant genetic structure was detected across populations. This study represents the most comprehensive range-wide hellbender genetics study to date. Understanding range-wide levels of genetic variation and differentiation will enable natural resource managers to make more informed decisions and plan conservation strategies for this cryptic, protected species.