Author(s): A G Kidd, J Bowman, D Lesbarreres, A I Schulte Hostedde
The release of domesticated organisms into na tural populations may adversely affect these populations through predation, resource co mpetition, and the introduction of disease. Additionally, the potential for hybridization between wild and domestic conspecifics is of great concern because it can alter the evolutio nary integrity of the affected populations. Wild American mink ( Neovison vison ) populations may be threatened not only by competi- tion for resources with domestic mink originat ing from farms, but by breeding with such escapees. Using 10 microsatellite loci, we ge notyped mink from Ontario, Canada, sampled from two farms, two putatively mixed populati ons in regions surrounding the mink farms, and two wild populations with no recent hist ory of mink farming. Using individual-based Bayesian population assignment, we identified four population clusters, including one wild, and three domestic populations. The latte r were not clustered by farm but rather by distinct line-bred colour phases. Population cl ustering also identified domestic and hybrid mink in the free-ranging populations. Nearly two-thirds of the mink sampled in the two putatively mixed populations (78% and 43%) we re either farm escapees or descendants of escapees. Principal componen ts analysis of allele freq uencies supported our Bayesian assignment results. The power of our assignme nt test was assessed using simulated hybrid genotypes which suggested that our overall co rrect classification rate was 96.2%. The overwhelming presence of domestic animals and their hybridization with mink in natural populations is of great concern for the futu re sustainability of wild mink populations.