Sex-biased gene flow among elk in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem

Brian K. Hand, Shanyuan Chen, Neil Anderson, Albano Beja-Pereira, Paul C. Cross, Michael Ebinger, Hank Edwards, Robert A. Garrott, Marty D. Kardos, Matt Kauffman, Erin L. Landguth, Arthur Middleton, Brandon Scurlock, P. J. White, Pete Zager, Michael K. Schwartz, Gordon Luikart

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

3 Scopus citations


We quantified patterns of population genetic structure to help understand gene flow among elk populations across the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. We sequenced 596 base pairs of the mitochondrial control region of 380 elk from eight populations. Analysis revealed high mitochondrial DNA variation within populations, averaging 13.0 haplotypes with high mean gene diversity (0.85). The genetic differentiation among populations for mitochondrial DNA was relatively high (FST = 0.161; P = 0.001) compared to genetic differentiation for nuclear microsatellite data (FST = 0.002; P = 0.332), which suggested relatively low female gene flow among populations. The estimated ratio of male to female gene flow (mm/mf = 46) was among the highest we have seen reported for large mammals. Genetic distance (for mitochondrial DNA pairwise FST) was not significantly correlated with geographic (Euclidean) distance between populations (Mantel's r = 0.274, P = 0.168). Large mitochondrial DNA genetic distances (e.g., FST. 0.2) between some of the geographically closest populations (<65 km) suggested behavioral factors and/or landscape features might shape female gene flow patterns. Given the strong sex-biased gene flow, future research and conservation efforts should consider the sexes separately when modeling corridors of gene flow or predicting spread of maternally transmitted diseases. The growing availability of genetic data to compare male vs. female gene flow provides many exciting opportunities to explore the magnitude, causes, and implications of sex-biased gene flow likely to occur in many species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-132
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Fish and Wildlife Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • Cervus elephus
  • Female philopatry
  • Genetic population structure
  • Yellowstone national park


Dive into the research topics of 'Sex-biased gene flow among elk in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this