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Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Mark Jordan


Department of Biology

University Affiliation

Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne


Landscape fragmentation can be a challenge to the long term viability of a genetically diverse population. Genetic differentiation may occur if gene flow is disrupted and this will ultimately result in decreased genetic diversity. A population of Copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix), a species of North American pit-viper, at Clifty Falls State Park in southern Indiana has experienced an apparent rapid decline in numbers. The purpose of this research project is to use molecular genetic tools to determine if the population demonstrates evidence of decline through the loss of genetic diversity and differentiation from nearby populations. Extracted DNA of 80 snakes, from the park and nearby sites in contiguous forest, were genotyped using seven microsatellite loci. The frequency of alleles within the Clifty Falls sample will be compared to samples collected in larger tracts of contiguous habitat. Statistics such has heterozygosity and allelic diversity will be calculated to compare levels genetic diversity while FST will be estimated to assess differentiation. If fragmentation has led to population decline, I expect there to be lower allelic diversity and evidence of differentiation in the park relative to other localities. It is necessary to document the genetic status of a population that has lost numbers to assure that it has not also lost genetic diversity. If it has, then it may be necessary to augment genetic diversity by artificially increasing gene flow to the population through the translocation of snakes from nearby populations. This work will contribute to understanding the dynamics of Copperhead populations and assist with their management in the future.


Biology | Life Sciences

Molecular genetic assessment of population structure of Copperheads (Agkistrodon contortrix) in southern Indiana

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