Title:  Genetically Unique Populations Along the Coasts of Georgia and South Carolina
Author(s): Michael H. Smith, Savannah River Ecology Laboratory; James R. Purdue, Illinois State Museum, Paul E. Johns and James M. Novak, Savannah River Ecology Laboratory
Year: 1998
Abstract: Studies of the genetic characteristics of white-tailed deer indicate the presence of a number of unique populations along the coast of Georgia and South Carolina. Deer in this area are descended from relic populations that survived the great reduction in deer numbers that occurred during the first part of this century. Genetic differentiation over short distances was observed for both maternally inherited mitochondrial genes and biparentally inherited nuclear genes. In fact many island populations, as well as adjacent mainland populations have unique genes. Overall genetic divergence at the nucleic acid level for mitochondrial DNA seems to be related to geographical distance between the populations. This spatial pattern makes it likely that female dispersal is limited and generally accounts for 13 to 22 % of the total dispersal. Similarly male dispersal is also limited and, although larger than female dispersal, is still not adequate to homogenize gene frequencies over distances that can easily be traversed by deer in a relatively short time. White-tailed deer on the coastal plain occur in geographically distinct genetic populations that maintain their genetic characteristics over time. The reasons for this type of distribution and the implications for the management of these populations will be discussed.

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