Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Bobcats (Lynx rufus) are generalist carnivores with an expansive range from southern Canada to northern Mexico, in which 11 - 12 subspecies have been described. Since European settlement, bobcat habitat has become increasingly fragmented due to urbanization and development of agricultural land. Presently, there is little information on the genetic structure of bobcat populations at large spatial scales. Furthermore, it is unknown whether the current isolation of bobcat populations is a historic feature or whether recent landscape alterations have disrupted dispersal among previously connected populations. To address these questions, microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA data were used for relatedness measurements, spatial autocorrelation examinations, Bayesian assignment testing and sequence analysis of bobcats across their range. These analyses showed that, within southern Illinois, females were closely related to one another and males tended to disperse from their natal area. On a regional scale, microsatellite data revealed several distinct genetic groups within the midwest, notably eastern and western bobcat populations. In contrast, mitochondrial DNA analyses resolved little differentiation among bobcat populations, elucidating two-three phylogeographic groups. Taken together, these data reveal that bobcats have not historically, experienced large barriers to dispersal. Rather, recent habitat alterations may be disrupting dispersal over large scales. Genetically defined groups are potential conservation units and should be used for regional management of bobcats.
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