The application ancient genetic information to management practices can provide a critical understanding of species of conservation concern. Utilizing the interpretations from two ancient DNA datasets I assess conservation implications for the locally threatened caribou (Rangifer tarandus) and the globally endangered saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica). Using Bayesian Inference to assess herd affinity of ancient caribou, I identify a dynamic history, including an unexpected lineage replacement event coincident with the deposition of the White River tephra (~1,000yrsBP). I then combine a recently published saiga aDNA dataset identifying a 65-75% population decline likely related to the glacial-interglacial transition at the Pleistocene-Holocene boundary with recent observations of frequent periods of sudden die-off to imply a life history inherently susceptible to dramatic population swings. Accordingly, conservation strategies for these two dynamic northern species must acknowledge both the likelihood of sudden declines, and the necessity for expansion and recovery.
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Thesis advisor: Mooers, Arne
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