Data from: Noninvasive sampling reveals population genetic structure in the Royle’s pika, Ochotona roylei, in the western Himalaya
Bhattacharyya, Sabuj; Ishtiaq, Farah (2018), Data from: Noninvasive sampling reveals population genetic structure in the Royle’s pika, Ochotona roylei, in the western Himalaya, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.83jm680
Understanding population genetic structure of climate-sensitive herbivore species is important as it provides useful insights on how shifts in environmental conditions can alter their distribution and abundance. Herbivore responses to the environment can have a strong indirect cascading effect on community structure. This is particularly important for Royle’s pika (Lagomorpha: Ochotona roylei), a herbivorous talus-dwelling species in alpine ecosystem, which forms a major prey base for many carnivores in the Himalayan arc. In this study, we used seven polymorphic microsatellite loci to detect evidence for recent changes in genetic diversity and population structure in Royle’s pika across five locations sampled between 8 km to 160 km apart in the western Himalaya. Using four clustering approaches, we found the presence of significant contemporary genetic structure in Royle’s pika populations. The detected genetic structure could be primarily attributed to the landscape features in alpine habitat (e.g. wide lowland valleys, rivers) that may act as semi-permeable barriers to gene flow and distribution of food plants, which are key determinants in spatial distribution of herbivores. Pika showed low inbreeding coefficients (FIS) and a high level of pairwise relatedness for individuals within 1km suggesting low dispersal abilities of talus-dwelling pikas. We have found evidence of a recent population bottleneck, possibly due to effects of environmental disturbances (e.g. snow melting patterns or thermal stress). Our results reveal significant evidence of isolation by distance in genetic differentiation (FST range = 0.04−0.19). This is the first population genetics study on Royle’s pika, which helps to address evolutionary consequences of climate change which are expected to significantly affect the distribution and population dynamics in this talus dwelling species.