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Illinois prairie chickens could disappear without more sustained management

Cara J

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After agricultural and urban expansion fragmented the habitat of the greater prairie chicken (Tympanuchus cupido pinnatus) in Illinois and pushed it to the brink of disappearing from the state, translocations between 1992 and 1998 reestablished the species. But a new study warns the birds are declining again and could die off without additional action because the transfer of individuals only increased their population and not their genetic diversity. “It was an enhancement of the population, not a rescue,” said Michael Douglas, co-author on the paper in Royal Society Open Science. “The chickens are at the same risk of extinction in Illinois as they were 20 years ago.” Michael and his wife Marlis Douglas, both biology professors at the University of Arkansas and members of TWS’ Arkansas Chapter, worked with a student in their department; the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Illinois Natural History Survey and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which funded the research. Between 2010 and 2013, the team examined over 1,800 shed feathers from two separate counties encompassing six leks, small territories where male chickens engage in breeding displays and fight for females. The biologists extracted and analyzed DNA from each feather to determine genetic similarities among individual [...]


Read more: http://wildlife.org/illinois-prairie-chickens-could-disappear-without-more-sustained-management/

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