Genetic Variation and Differentiation of Bison (Bison bison) Subspecies and Cattle (Bos taurus) Breeds and Subspecies

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Abstract

The genetic relationship of American plains bison (Bison bison bison) and wood bison (Bison bison athabascae) was quantified and compared with that among breeds and subspecies of cattle. Plains bison from 9 herds (N = 136), wood bison from 3 herds (N = 65), taurine cattle (Bos taurus taurus) from 14 breeds (N = 244), and indicine cattle (Bos taurus indicus) from 2 breeds (N = 53) were genotyped for 29 polymorphic microsatellite loci. Bayesian cluster analyses indicate 3 groups, 2 of which are plains bison and 1 of which is wood bison with some admixture, and genetic distances do not show plains bison and wood bison as distinct groups. Differentiation of wood bison and plains bison is also significantly less than that of cattle breeds and subspecies. These and other genetic data and historical interbreeding of bison do not support recognition of extant plains bison and wood bison as phylogenetically distinct subspecies.

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