Genetic structure of the threatened West-Pannonian population of Great Bustard (Otis tarda)

PeerJ. 2016 Mar 3:4:e1759. doi: 10.7717/peerj.1759. eCollection 2016.


The genetic diversity, population structure and gene flow of the Great Bustards (Otis tarda) living in Austria-Slovakia-West Hungary (West-Pannonian region), one of the few populations of this globally threatened species that survives across the Palaearctic, has been assessed for the first time in this study. Fourteen recently developed microsatellite loci identified one single population in the study area, with high values of genetic diversity and gene flow between two different genetic subunits. One of these subunits (Heideboden) was recognized as a priority for conservation, as it could be crucial to maintain connectivity with the central Hungarian population and thus contribute to keeping contemporary genetic diversity. Current conservation efforts have been successful in saving this threatened population from extinction two decades ago, and should continue to guarantee its future survival.

Keywords: Conservation; Fragmentation; Gene flow; Management; Metapopulation; Microsatellite; Population structure.

Grants and funding

JLH was supported by a Marie Curie-Clarín CoFund grant (ACA14-26). Partial funding was provided by project CGL201236345 from the Spanish Directorate General for Scientific Research. Most feathers were collected within the three LIFE Projects “Crossborder Protection of the Great Bustard in Austria” (LIFE05 NAT/A/000077,, “Conservation of Otis tarda in Hungary” (LIFE04 NAT/HU/000109, and “Crossborder Protection of the Great Bustard in Austria—continuation” (LIFE09 NAT/AT/000225, All three LIFE Projects are supported by the EU, many project partners and co-financiers. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.