Demographic history inferred from genome-wide data reveals two lineages of sheldgeese endemic to a glacial refugium in the southern Atlantic

Cecilia Kopuchian, Leonardo Campagna, Adrián S. Di Giacomo, Robert E. Wilson, Mariana Bulgarella, Pablo Petracci, Juan Mazar Barnett, Ricardo Matus, Olivia Blank, Kevin G. Mccracken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Aim: The Malvinas/Falkland Islands (MFI) constitute the largest archipelago in the southern Atlantic, and harbour endemic lineages that presumably evolved after sea-level rise, associated with glacial periods, isolated ancestral populations. We investigate the role of the MFI in isolating populations from continental counterparts of two highly vagile species: the sheldgeese Chloephaga picta and Chloephaga rubidiceps. Location: Patagonia and the Malvinas/Falkland Islands. Methods: We sampled C. picta and C. rubidiceps on the continent and MFI. Using a reduced-representation genomic approach, we quantified the genetic differentiation between insular and continental populations of both species, and used coalescent-based analyses to model their demography. Results: The MFI harbour independently evolving lineages of C. picta and C. rubidiceps, which diverged from their continental counterparts during the Middle-Late Pleistocene and have since experienced negligible gene flow. Main conclusions: The c. 450 km that separate the archipelago from the continent are sufficient to isolate populations of these putatively highly vagile species. Ancestral lineages may have reached the MFI refugium during glacial cycles. Without conservation measures, the drastic decline of the morphologically, behaviourally and ecologically distinct continental population of C. rubidiceps, to < 1000 individuals, may lead to the extinction of an independently evolving taxon.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1979-1989
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biogeography
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge grants from the PR Kellogg, Jr Memorial Fund of the Neotropical Grassland Conservancy, the Systematics Research Fund of the Systematics Association and the Linnean Society of London, and ANPCyT Argentina (PICT 2014-2057) for financial support. We are indebted to I. Lovette, B. Butcher and other members of the Fuller Evolutionary Biology program for providing valuable input and kindly allowing access to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology research facilities. We thank G.S. Cabanne for help in the lab and R. Woods, L. Spurgin and two anonymous referees for feedback on the manuscript. We thank Aves Argentinas – Asociación Ornitológica de Plata for providing travel support for C.K. The Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales, and the University of Alaska Museum provided samples for this study. We thank H. Ibañez and other members of the Dirección de Fauna (Secretaría de Ambiente y Desarrollo Sustentable, Argentina) for facilitating export permits of Argentine samples and C. Dardia for help with import permits. We are grateful to the Falkland Islands Government for granting permits. We thank A. Eagle and S. Felton (Fitzroy Farm) and F. Clark for assistance with fieldwork and/or collecting samples in the MFI. We thank the Servicio Agrícola y Ganadero (Chile) for export permits and support to the Ruddy-headed goose semi-captivity breeding program, and W. Bitterlich and A. Campos for allowing fieldwork on their properties. Illustrations of Chloephaga species were reproduced with permission from the Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 1. Family Anatidae (ducks, geese and swans) (Carboneras, in del Hoyo et al.).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd


  • Chloephaga
  • Malvinas/Falkland Islands
  • Patagonia
  • Pleistocene refugium
  • conservation genetics
  • demographic modelling
  • endangered species
  • island endemism
  • taxonomy


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