Date of Award
Master of Science
Golden mice (Ochrotomys nuttalli) are generally an elusive and rare species throughout their geographic range in the southeastern United States. They are considered to be habitat specialists that prefer dense understory consisting of shrubs and vines. Golden mice are less vagile, and likely disperse shorter distances than other sympatric species such as the white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus). Conversely, white-footed mice are considered habitat generalists that inhabit a variety of habitat types, are more vagile, and disperse farther than golden mice. Because of this it is likely that golden mice have a lower genetic diversity and are more genetically subdivided than white-footed mice. In southern Illinois, golden mice are on the periphery of their range, which is one of the reasons they are on the state-threatened list in Illinois. It has been hypothesized that populations on the periphery of a species range will have more population structure and lower genetic diversity than populations in the core of the range. Tissue samples for golden mice and white-footed mice were collected from 24 sites throughout southern Illinois and 24 sites throughout the golden mouse core range. I analyzed 13 and 10 microsatellite markers as well as 594 and 624 base pairs of the mitochondrial control region for golden mice and white-footed mice, respectively, to characterize and compare the genetic diversity and population structure of both species. Overall haplotype diversity (0.76) and nucleotide diversity (0.20%) was lower in golden mice compared to white footed mice (0.99 and 1.97%). Results of an AMOVA using the mitochondrial control region revealed more subdivision among the 3 populations of golden mice (Φst = 0.099, P < 0.001) than among the 3 populations of white-footed mice (Φst = 0.058, P < 0.001). Microsatellite loci showed a similar trend with overall FST values of 0.027 (P < 0.001) for golden mice and 0.004 (P = 0.137) for white-footed mice. I intended to compare golden mouse individuals from southern Illinois and the core of the range, but too few individuals were collected from the core. More samples need to be collected throughout the core of the range to better understand the population genetics of golden mice in the core of the range compared to the periphery.
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