Identifying the genetic structure of a species and the factors that drive it is an important first step in modern population management, in part because populations evolving from separate ancestral sources may possess potentially different characteristics. This is especially true for climate-sensitive species such as pikas, where the delimitation of distinct genetic units and the characterization of population responses to contemporary and historical environmental pressures are of particular interest. We combined a restriction site-associated DNA sequencing (RADSeq) data set containing 4156 single nucleotide polymorphisms with ecological niche models (ENMs) of present and past habitat suitability to characterize population composition and evaluate the effects of historical range shifts, contemporary climates and landscape factors on gene flow in Collared Pikas, which are found in Alaska and adjacent regions of northwestern Canada and are the lesser-studied of North America's two pika species. The results suggest that contemporary environmental factors contribute little to current population connectivity. Instead, genetic diversity is strongly shaped by the presence of three ancestral lineages isolated during the Pleistocene (~148 and 52 kya). Based on ENMs and genetic data, populations originating from a northern refugium experienced longer-term stability, whereas both southern lineages underwent population expansion - contradicting the southern stability and northern expansion patterns seen in many other taxa. Current populations are comparable with respect to generally low diversity within populations and little-to-no recent admixture. The predominance of divergent histories structuring populations implies that if we are to understand and manage pika populations, we must specifically assess and accurately account for the forces underlying genetic similarity.
Recent studies suggest that alpine and arctic organisms may have distinctly different phylogeographic histories from temperate or tropical taxa, with recent range contraction into interglacial refugia as opposed to post-glacial expansion out of refugia. We use a combination of phylogeographic inference, demographic reconstructions, and hierarchical Approximate Bayesian Computation to test for phylodemographic concordance among five species of alpine-adapted small mammals in eastern Beringia. These species (Collared Pikas, Hoary Marmots, Brown Lemmings, Arctic Ground Squirrels, and Singing Voles) vary in specificity to alpine and boreal-tundra habitat but share commonalities (e.g., cold tolerance and nunatak survival) that might result in concordant responses to Pleistocene glaciations. All five species contain a similar phylogeographic disjunction separating eastern and Beringian lineages, which we show to be the result of simultaneous divergence. Genetic diversity is similar within each haplogroup for each species, and there is no support for a post-Pleistocene population expansion in eastern lineages relative to those from Beringia. Bayesian skyline plots for four of the five species do not support Pleistocene population contraction. Brown Lemmings show evidence of late Quaternary demographic expansion without subsequent population decline. The Wrangell-St. Elias region of eastern Alaska appears to be an important zone of recent secondary contact for nearctic alpine mammals. Despite differences in natural history and ecology, similar phylogeographic histories are supported for all species, suggesting that these, and likely other, alpine- and arctic-adapted taxa are already experiencing population and/or range declines that are likely to synergistically accelerate in the face of rapid climate change. Climate change may therefore be acting as a double-edged sword that erodes genetic diversity within populations but promotes divergence and the generation of biodiversity.
Human infection by orthopoxviruses is being reported with increasing frequency, attributed in part to the cessation of smallpox vaccination and concomitant waning of population-level immunity. In July 2015, a female resident of interior Alaska presented to an urgent care clinic with a dermal lesion consistent with poxvirus infection. Laboratory testing of a virus isolated from the lesion confirmed infection by an Orthopoxvirus.
The virus isolate was characterized by using electron microscopy and nucleic acid sequencing. An epidemiologic investigation that included patient interviews, contact tracing, and serum testing, as well as environmental and small-mammal sampling, was conducted to identify the infection source and possible additional cases.
Neither signs of active infection nor evidence of recent prior infection were observed in any of the 4 patient contacts identified. The patient's infection source was not definitively identified. Potential routes of exposure included imported fomites from Azerbaijan via the patient's cohabiting partner or wild small mammals in or around the patient's residence. Phylogenetic analyses demonstrated that the virus represents a distinct and previously undescribed genetic lineage of Orthopoxvirus, which is most closely related to the Old World orthopoxviruses.
Investigation findings point to infection of the patient after exposure in or near Fairbanks. This conclusion raises questions about the geographic origins (Old World vs North American) of the genus Orthopoxvirus. Clinicians should remain vigilant for signs of poxvirus infection and alert public health officials when cases are suspected.