Independent Occurrences of Multiple Repeats in the Control Region of Mitochondrial DNA of White-Tailed Deer

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Deer in the genera Mazama and Odocoileus generally have two copies of a 75–base-pair (bp) repeat in the left domain of the control region of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). Phylogenetic analyses further suggest an ancient origin for the duplication supporting a previously stated contention that this event occurred before the separation of Mazama and Odocoileus. However, white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) had three or four copies of a 75-bp repeat in the control region of their mtDNA in 7.8% of the individuals analyzed, and all of these animals were from the coastal plain of the southeastern United States. When copy 3 is present, it is very similar in sequence to copy 2, but variation suggests that copy 3 probably evolved multiple times from copy 2. The pattern of phylogenetic clustering of the haplotypes from across the coastal plain also suggests that phenotypes with three or four copies of the repeat have originated multiple times. The 44 observed haplotypes showed strong spatial subdivision across the area with subpopulations frequently showing complete shifts in haplotype frequencies from others taken from nearby areas. Many of the subpopulations right along the coast or on adjacent barrier islands have a limited number of haplotypes as would occur in populations undergoing drift because of small numbers of breeding females and limited female dispersal.

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