Historical Biogeography and Contemporary Patterns of Mitochondrial DNA Variation in White-Tailed Deer from the Southeastern United States Academic Article uri icon


  • Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) was used to characterize patterns of geographic variation among white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) populations in the southeastern United States. Fifteen restriction enzymes were employed to survey and map 99 restriction sites in 142 deer from 18 localities in five southeastern states. Phylogenetic analysis revealed three primary groups of haplotypes: (1) southern Florida and the Florida Keys, (2) the remainder of peninsular Florida northward to South Carolina, and (3) the Florida panhandle westward to Mississippi. Geographical heterogeneity in haplotype frequencies suggests that stochastic lineage sorting or isolation by distance are not important determinates of mtDNA differentiation among deer populations. The pattern of mtDNA variation in white-tailed deer is concordant spatially with those observed in unrelated taxa suggesting the common influence of historical biogeographic events. The data (1) support previous hypotheses that relate contemporary patterns of intraspecific phylogeography in northern Florida to the physiogeographic history of the region; and (2) suggest that genetic differentiation in southern Florida may be attributable to episodes of Pleistocene dispersal. Despite potentially high vagility and human intervention, ecological and demographic characteristics of deer have effectively preserved the historical pattern of intraspecific mtDNA differentiation.

author list (cited authors)

  • Ellsworth, D. L., Honeycutt, R. L., Silvy, N. J., Bickham, J. W., & Klimstra, W. D.

citation count

  • 43

publication date

  • February 1994