Understanding the patterns of population connectivity and level of genetic diversity can facilitate the identification of both ecologically relevant populations and the spatial scales at which conservation management may need to focus. We quantified genetic variation within and among populations of black-throated finches across their current distribution. To quantify genetic structure and diversity, we genotyped 242 individuals from four populations using 14 polymorphic microsatellite markers and sequenced 25 individuals based on a 302-base-pair segment of mitochondrial control region. We found modest levels of genetic diversity (average allelic richness r = 4.37 ± 0.41 (standard error) and average heterozygosity HO = 0.42 ± 0.040 (standard error)) with no bottleneck signature among sampled populations. We identified two genetic groups that represent populations of two subspecies based on Bayesian clustering analysis and low levels of genetic differentiation based on pairwise genetic differentiation statistics (all FST, RST and Nei’s unbiased D values < 0.1). Our data suggest that genetic exchange occurs among sampled populations despite recent population declines. Conservation efforts that focus on maintaining habitat connectivity and increasing habitat quality to ensure a high level of gene flow on a larger scale will improve the species’ ability to persist in changing landscapes. Conservation management should also support continuous monitoring of the bird to identify any rapid population declines as land-use intensification occurs throughout the species’ range.
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Vol. 64 • No. 6