The ghost of genetic diversity past: historical DNA analysis of the greater prairie chicken

Am Nat. 1998 Jul;152(1):1-6. doi: 10.1086/286145.


Most, if not all, of the "classic," often-cited examples illustrating the genetic effects of a population bottleneck are open to alternative explanations due to the lack of adequate control populations, that is, low levels of genetic variability are often assumed to be the result of a past population bottleneck without having any prebottleneck measures. Here we provide the first clear case history where both prebottleneck and postbottleneck measures of genetic variability have been collected from a natural system. Analysis of DNA from museum specimens of the greater prairie chicken Tympanuchus cupido from central Illinois revealed the loss of specific alleles (known to have been present earlier in this century) following a demographic contraction. Lost alleles included common ones present in all other populations sampled and others unique to the Illinois population.