Animal Biodiversity and Conservation (Dec 2008)

Population genetic structure in natural and reintroduced beaver (Castor fiber) populations in Central Europe

  • Kautenburger, R.,
  • Sander, A. C.

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 31, no. 2
pp. 25 – 35


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Castor fiber Linnaeus, 1758 is the only indigenous species of the genus Castor in Europe and Asia. Due to extensive hunting until the beginning of the 20th century, the distribution of the formerly widespread Eurasian beaver was dramatically reduced. Only a few populations remained and these were in isolated locations, such as the region of the German Elbe River. The loss of genetic diversity in small or captive populations throughgenetic drift and inbreeding is a severe conservation problem. However, the reintroduction of beaver populations from several regions in Europe has shown high viability and populations today are growing fast. In the present study we analysed the population genetic structure of a natural and two reintroduced beaver populations in Germany and Austria. Furthermore, we studied the genetic differentiation between two beaver species, C. fiber and the American beaver (C. canadensis), using RAPD (Random Amplified Polymorphic DNA) as a genetic marker. The reintroduced beaver populations of different origins and the autochthonous population of the Elbe River showed a similar low genetic heterogeneity. There was an overall high genetic similarity in the species C. fiber, and no evidence was found for a clear subspecific structure in the populations studied.