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A renewed glance at the Palearctic golden eagle: genetic variation in space and time
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  • Ekaterina Karabanina,
  • Gerhardus Lansink,
  • Suvi Ponnikas,
  • Laura Kvist
Ekaterina Karabanina
University of Oulu

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Gerhardus Lansink
University of Oulu
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Suvi Ponnikas
University of Oulu
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Laura Kvist
University of Oulu
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Abstract

Anthropogenic pressures on nature have been causing population declines for centuries. Intensified persecution of apex predators, like the golden eagle, resulted in population bottlenecks during the 19th-20th centuries. To study population genetics and demographic history of the golden eagle throughout its distribution, we collected museum samples from previously underrepresented regions, such as Russia and Central Asia. We used 12 microsatellite loci and a fragment of the mitochondrial DNA control region to re-evaluate phylogeography of Eurasian golden eagles and study the impacts of the population bottleneck. Our results revealed a north-south genetic gradient, expressed by the difference of Mediterranean and Holarctic lineages, as well as genetically distinct Northern Europe and Central Asia and Caucasus regions. Furthermore, Northern Europe exhibited the lowest, whereas Central Asia and Caucasus had the highest genetic diversity. Although golden eagles maintained relatively high genetic diversity, we detected genetic signatures of the recent bottleneck, including reduced genetic diversity and a decline in the effective female population size around the year 1975. Our study improves the knowledge of the genetic composition of Eurasian golden eagles and highlights the importance of understanding their historical population dynamics in the face of ongoing and future conservation efforts.