US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in Biochemical Genetics, Vol. 41, Nos. 1/2, February 2003.


Three subspecies of sandhill crane (Grus canadensis) are recognized in the Midcontinental population, the lesser (Grus c. canadensis), Canadian (G. c. rowani), and greater (G. c. tabida). Blood samples collected on the population’s primary spring staging area in Nebraska, U.S.A., were used to resolve the genetic relationship among these subspecies. Phylogenetic analysis of 27 G. canadensis, by DNA sequencing of a 675 bp region of the mtDNA, supports the subspecies designations of G. c. canadensis and G. c. tabida. G. c. rowani individuals were intermediate with each of the other two subspecies. Genetic divergence ranged from 6.5 to 14.5% between G. c. canadensis and G. c. tabida, 0.5 to 6.6% within G. c. canadensis, and 0.1 to 6.0% within G. c. tabida. Sufficient DNA for analysis was obtained from shed feathers indicating a source of genetic material that does not require the capture or sacrifice of the birds. Other genetic markers and methods, including satellite telemetry, are required for obtaining detailed information on crane distributions as needed to establish effective management units for the MCP.