Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Genetic study clarifies evolutionary origin of elusive montane red fox

Date:
May 20, 2011
Source:
USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station
Summary:
North American red foxes originated from two separate genetic lineages that were isolated from each other by glaciers some half a million years ago, according to a new study.

North American red foxes originated from two separate genetic lineages that were isolated from each other by glaciers some half a million years ago, according to a U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station study.

The research -- featured in the April/May 2011 issue of Science Findings, a monthly publication of the station -- can assist efforts aimed at conserving potentially imperiled montane populations of the species.

"When most people think of the red fox, they envision the ones that thrive in low-elevation, human-dominated landscapes," said Keith Aubry, a research wildlife biologist at the station who led the study. "But there are other extremely elusive and rarely seen populations that live only in isolated alpine and subalpine areas in the mountains of the Western United States."

The latter group -- the montane red foxes -- may be imperiled by climate change and other contemporary pressures and were the focus of Aubry's doctoral work in the early 1980s. Contrary to prevailing theory at the time, Aubry hypothesized that native North American red foxes were descended from two distinct lineages, not one, that were isolated from each other in both northern and southern ice-free areas during the most recent Ice Age. Such an evolutionary history would help explain the unique ecological adaptations of the montane foxes, and why native red foxes in southern British Columbia are so much bigger than the montane foxes that occupy nearly adjacent areas in Washington's Cascade Range.

"If all of North America's foxes originated from a single lineage that had expanded its distribution in a wave across the continent, you'd expect to see a more or less continuous gradient in size," Aubry said. "But there was an abrupt discontinuity in size in that area, suggesting that the montane red foxes had evolved in isolation from the northern populations," Aubry said.

Only recently were Aubry and his colleagues able to test this hypothesis through genetic analyses of 285 museum specimens and a close examination of fossil, archeological, historical, and ecological records. They found that North American red foxes did, indeed, stem from two distinct lineages that diverged from each other while they were isolated in both the southern and northern parts of the continent during the last Ice Age. Moreover, Aubry suspects that montane foxes' smaller size and high-elevation habitat preference is indicative of their being descendants of ancient foxes that had inhabited the southern part of the continent.

With knowledge of the evolutionary history and genetics of the North American red fox, managers can distinguish native from nonnative populations and can clarify genetic relationships among subspecies -- knowledge that, in turn, can be used to target conservation efforts to the appropriate gene pool.

To read the April/May 2011 issue of Science Findings online, visit http://www.treesearch.fs.fed.us/pubs/37702.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. "Genetic study clarifies evolutionary origin of elusive montane red fox." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 May 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110520160638.htm>.
USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. (2011, May 20). Genetic study clarifies evolutionary origin of elusive montane red fox. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110520160638.htm
USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. "Genetic study clarifies evolutionary origin of elusive montane red fox." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110520160638.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Snack Attack: Study Says Action Movies Make You Snack More

Snack Attack: Study Says Action Movies Make You Snack More

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) — You're more likely to gain weight while watching action flicks than you are watching other types of programming, says a new study published in JAMA. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Get A Mortgage, Receive A Cat — Only In Russia

Get A Mortgage, Receive A Cat — Only In Russia

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) — The incentive is in keeping with a Russian superstition that it's good luck for a cat to be the first to cross the threshold of a new home. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) — The U.N. says the problem is two-fold — quarantine zones and travel restrictions are limiting the movement of both people and food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sharks Off the Menu and on the Tourist Trail in Palau

Sharks Off the Menu and on the Tourist Trail in Palau

AFP (Sep. 2, 2014) — Tourists in Palau clamour to dive with sharks thanks to a pioneering conservation initiative -- as the island nation plans to completely ban commercial fishing in its vast ocean territory. 01:15 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins