Phil Lavretsky, a second year ES PhD student advised by Jeff Peters, has received a competitive Richard H. G. Bonnycastle Fellowship in Wetland and Waterfowl Biology from Ducks Unlimited. The fellowship, in the amount of CN$10,000, was awarded for a project entitled “Genetic Introgression and Conservation of the North American Mallard Complex” which is summarized below.
Congratulations to Phil!
Abstract: Anthropogenically induced disturbances of local, regional, or even continental habitats by either creating secondary contact zones and/or introducing non-native species contributes to the increased incidences of introgressive hybridization. These concerns are ever present in many avian species, which have been known to readily hybridize. Of the many Avian orders, waterfowl (order Anseriformes) experience the highest rates of hybridization. For instance, the mallard complex is comprised of 13 closely related species of mallard-like ducks, which can produce 100% viable hybrids. Such a capacity to hybridize raises global concern over extinction by introgressive hybridization within the Mallard clade. I will be developing novel molecular markers based on single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for North Americas Mallard like ducks: (1) Mottled Ducks (Anas fulvigula), (2) American Black Duck (A. rubripes), (3) Mexican duck (A. diazi), and (4) the Mallard (A. platyrhynchos). I will test the hypothesis that secondary contact between mallards and their endemic relatives results in a higher risk of introgressive hybridization, and ultimately extinction by hybridization, for the endemic species.This research will provide an invaluable resource to assist biologists with conservation of these species.