Siberian flying squirrel population genetic study

Suitable habitats of Siberian flying squirrel (Pteromys volans) in Estonia have been in sharp decline in the recent decades and they can now only be found in North-Eastern part of the country. Even there, they have not escaped from the fragmentation of forests and from the loss of suitable habitats. Furthermore, Estonian population has been in an isolation from other nearest populations: Finnish and Karelian. Therefore, an interest was raised to investigate whether the Estonian population is different from its nearest counterparts and also to describe the genetic diversity of Estonian flying squirrel population.

This investigation revealed that based on mitochondrial DNA, Estonian, Karelian and Finnish squirrels can be phylogenetically grouped together into a same subclade. Additionally, it was found that Estonian population had lower genetic diversity and signs of inbreeding was detected.

This project was completed in 2017 between the collaboration of  Foundation Lutreola, Tallinn Zoo Species conservation laboratory, Estonian Fund for Nature and Environmental Investment Center.

Photo: Raimar Kurbel