Genetic studies reveal population structure of fisher predate management
Technologies initially motivated by the Human Genome Project have been modified to bring affordable genomics to conservation genetics. Using this technology, station scientists sequenced entire mitochondrial genomes from 40 fishers. Previous research, based on a portion of the mitochondrial genome, had observed such low levels of genetic variation within fishers that individuals from the Great Lakes Region and Pacific West appeared identical. Entire mitochondrial genome sequences have provided sufficient information to support taxonomic subspecies, as well as identify unique populations. These results indicate that the observed genetic structure represents a pattern that has been in place for thousands of years, much longer than current land management practices.
Distinct population segments of fisher have recently been petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and conclusions from this proposed listing are currently pending. This research is being used to aid management decisions about whether these populations warrant protection under the ESA. Scientifically informed management decisions regarding fishers can now be made, whereas in the recent past, technical information about the fisher was limited.