Population decline is accompanied by loss of genetic diversity in the Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor

David Giralt, a BAC lab’s member, has published a paper about Lesser Grey Shrike (Lanius minor). The last 10 years David has focused his research on the decline of Lanius minor in Lleida (in the north – west of Spain). Now, it has been published his last paper which connects the population decline of Lanius minor with the loss of genetic diversity.

The Lesser Grey Shrike has suffered successive declines in population size and a marked contraction of its breeding range since the early 20th century, largely because of long-term agricultural intensification. This has resulted in a severely fragmented distribution in Western Europe, with isolated breeding nuclei in Spain, France and Italy and a more continuous distribution in Eastern Europe and Asia.

Using a combination of nuclear and mitochondrial markers, the authors assessed the genetic structure and diversity of Lesser Grey Shrike populations from Western Europe, Central Europe and Asia.

The results show that there was significant genetic differentiation among three major regional groups, one European and two Asian. Genetic diversity measures were lowest in the smallest and most marginal Spanish population. Limited genetic diversity, combined with rapid population decline, suggests the Spanish population may face extinction in the near future.

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