In this study, the history of the pine marten (Martes martes) in Ireland is reviewed, revealing that the population has undergone several retractions and expansions over the last few hundred years. Here, we consider the genetic legacy of this flux in fortunes and its likely impacts upon the conservation and future recovery of the species. Using nuclear DNA markers (microsatellites), we found that the genetic diversity present in Ireland today is like that of other Irish carnivores, but there is evidence of a genetic bottleneck and low effective population size that might result in further reductions of diversity in the future. There is a lack of genetic structure, showing that the population has not been fragmented genetically, despite the low percentage of woodland in Ireland. We also reviewed the mitochondrial DNA diversity present in the Irish population and showed that there is only one contemporary and one extinct haplotype present; a reduced diversity relative to other Irish carnivores. The Irish haplotypes, both extant and extinct, are shared or are genetically similar to haplotypes commonly present in southern Europe today. We discuss the possibility of reinforcing the Irish population with animals from these sources to help supplement and maintain genetic diversity for future generations.
- historical demography
- population reinforcement