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16 June 2010 Fine-scale genetic and social structuring in a central Appalachian white-tailed deer herd
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Spatial genetic structure in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) has been examined at regional scales, but genetic markers with the resolution to detect fine-scale patterns have appeared only recently. We used a panel of microsatellite DNA markers, radiotelemetry data, and visual observations of marked deer to study fine-scale social and genetic structure in a high-density population of white-tailed deer (12–20 deer/km2). We collected genetic data on 229 adult females, 102 of which were assigned to 28 social groups. Our results were consistent with the conceptual model of white-tailed deer social structure, where philopatric females form social groups composed of related individuals. Within-group relatedness values approached the expected value for 1st cousins (R  =  0.103, SE  =  0.033), but individuals among groups (R  =  −0.014, SE  =  0.003) and overall (R  =  −0.009, SE  =  0.003) were unrelated. Fixation indices revealed a significant departure from equilibrium values among social groups (FST  =  0.076, SE  =  0.007) and an excess of heterozygotes within groups (FIS  =  −0.050, SE  =  0.018), consistent with theoretical expectations for mammal populations characterized by female philopatry and a polygynous mating system. Analyses of spatial autocorrelation indicated genetic structuring occurred at a very fine spatial scale, where pairs of adult females within 1 km were genetically nonindependent. The occurrence of fine-scale genetic and social structure has implications for the ecology and management of white-tailed deer, including habitat use and resource competition, offspring sex allocation theories, disease transmission, and the consideration of social behaviors in management.

Brad F. Miller, Randy W. DeYoung, Tyler A. Campbell, Benjamin R. Laseter, W. Mark Ford, and Karl V. Miller "Fine-scale genetic and social structuring in a central Appalachian white-tailed deer herd," Journal of Mammalogy 91(3), (16 June 2010).
Received: 10 August 2009; Accepted: 1 October 2009; Published: 16 June 2010

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