Genetic diversity and landscape genetic structure of otter (Lutra lutra) populations in Europe

Nadia Mucci, Johanna Arrendal, Hermann Ansorge, Michael Bailey, Michaela Bodner, Miguel Delibes, Ainhoa Ferrando, Pascal Fournier, Christine Fournier, José A. Godoy, Petra Hajkova, Silke Hauer, Thrine Moen Heggberget, Dietrich Heidecke, Harri Kirjavainen, Hans Heinrich Krueger, Kirsti Kvaloy, Lionel Lafontaine, József Lanszki, Charles LemarchandUlla Maija Liukko, Volker Loeschcke, Gilbert Ludwig, Aksel Bo Madsen, Laurent Mercier, Janis Ozolins, Momir Paunovic, Cino Pertoldi, Ana Piriz, Claudio Prigioni, Margarida Santos-Reis, Teresa Sales Luis, Torsten Stjernberg, Hans Schmid, Franz Suchentrunk, Jens Teubner, Risto Tornberg, Olaf Zinke, Ettore Randi

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59 Citations (Scopus)


Eurasian otter populations strongly declined and partially disappeared due to global and local causes (habitat destruction, water pollution, human persecution) in parts of their continental range. Conservation strategies, based on reintroduction projects or restoration of dispersal corridors, should rely on sound knowledge of the historical or recent consequences of population genetic structuring. Here we present the results of a survey performed on 616 samples, collected from 19 European countries, genotyped at the mtDNA control-region and 11 autosomal microsatellites. The mtDNA variability was low (nucleotide diversity = 0.0014; average number of pairwise differences = 2.25), suggesting that extant otter mtDNA lineages originated recently. A star-shaped mtDNA network did not allow outlining any phylogeographic inference. Microsatellites were only moderately variable (Ho = 0.50; He = 0.58, on average across populations), the average allele number was low (observed Ao = 4.9, range 2.5-6.8; effective Ae = 2.8; range 1.6-3.7), suggesting small historical effective population size. Extant otters likely originated from the expansion of a single refugial population. Bayesian clustering and landscape genetic analyses however indicate that local populations are genetically differentiated, perhaps as consequence of post-glacial demographic fluctuations and recent isolation. These results delineate a framework that should be used for implementing conservation programs in Europe, particularly if they are based on the reintroduction of wild or captive-reproduced otters. © 2010 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)583-599
JournalConservation Genetics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2010


  • Bayesian clustering
  • Eurasian otter
  • Landscape genetics
  • Microsatellites
  • Mitochondrial DNA
  • Spatial genetic structure


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