Genetic structure and differentiation within the eastern spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius): a microsatellite analysis
The fluctuating nature of eastern spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius) populations over the past century has prompted concern over their conservation status, especially since this species is encountered infrequently and is relatively understudied. Although S. putorius is regarded as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with the plains subspecies, S. p. interrupta, being considered for endangered species status, the genetic diversity and structure of the species is unknown. To enable genetic comparisons among the 3 subspecies, as well as to test the validity of the subspecies designations, tissue samples (n = 81) were analyzed across 11 cross-species microsatellite loci. Structure analyses indicated the presence of 3 clusters commensurate with morphological subspecies designations. The minimal gene flow and strong genetic differentiation (FST > 0.195) present among subspecies indicate the need to consider each as a unique evolutionarily significant unit, as these genetic differences could reflect behavioral, physiological, or habitat differences.