The Work and Theory of Lavretsky, Part 1

If you are like me, a non-geneticist, you are probably reeling from the the final episode of the Ducks Unlimited podcasts featuring the work and personage of Prof Dr Phil Lavretsky.

What have we just heard?  The doom or end of native mallard ducks in North America?  Well, not quite.

Re-play those episodes again, so you can get a whole picture of what he is talking about.  Put those side flyers on hold (Did he say that the Hawai`ian DF&W killed off endangered Hawai`ian ducks they were suppose to be saving?) and aim for the wings in your sites.

Now, you are probably ready to drop into his publications.  Amazingly, most of his publications are available for download without cost.  I have linked two crucial publications, thanking the donors and University of Texas – El Paso for their use, and offer the links to them here…

Bibliography (2019 and 2020)

“Assessing changes in genomic divergence following a century of human‐mediated secondary contact among wild and captive‐bred ducks”, P Lavretsky, NR McInerney, JE Mohl, JI Brown, HF James, KG McCracken, …Molecular ecology 29 (3), 578-595 1 2020

“Population Genomics Provides Key Insights into Admixture, Speciation, and Evolution of Closely Related Ducks of the Mallard Complex”, P Lavretsky, Springer, Cham 2020

“Persistence of an endangered native duck, feral mallards, and multiple hybrid swarms across the main Hawaiian Islands”, CP Wells, P Lavretsky, MD Sorenson, JL Peters, JM DaCosta, S Turnbull, …Molecular Ecology 28 (24), 5203-5216 2 2019

“Strong population structure and limited gene flow between Yellow-billed Ducks and Mallards in southern Africa”, JI Brown, P Lavretsky, GS Cumming, JL Peters, The Condor 121 (4), duz042 1 2019

“Old divergence and restricted gene flow between torrent duck (Merganetta armata) subspecies in the Central and Southern Andes”, L Alza, P Lavretsky, JL Peters, G Cerón, M Smith, C Kopuchian, A Astie, …Ecology and evolution 9 (17), 9961-9976 2019

“Conservation paleoecology: using subfossil 3D morphometrics and ancient DNA to determine the former ranges of endemic, endangered ducks in Hawaii”, CP Wells, P Lavretsky, RC Fleischer, M Spitzer, M Dattoria, V Rossi, …2019 ESA Annual Meeting (August 11–16) 2019

“Coast to coast: High genomic connectivity in North American scoters”, SA Sonsthagen, RE Wilson, P Lavretsky, SL TalbotEcology and evolution 9 (12), 7246-7261 2019

“ddRAD‐seq data reveal significant genome‐wide population structure and divergent genomic regions that distinguish the mallard and close relatives in North America”, P Lavretsky, JM DaCosta, MD Sorenson, KG McCracken, JL Peters, Molecular ecology 28 (10), 2594-2609 7 2019

“Identifying hybrids & the genomics of hybridization: Mallards & American black ducks of Eastern North America”, P Lavretsky, T Janzen, KG McCracken, Ecology and evolution 9 (6), 3470-3490 9 2019

“Population genomics and phylogeography”, J Ottenburghs, P Lavretsky, JL Peters, T Kawakami, RHS Kraus, Avian Genomics in Ecology and Evolution, 237-265 2 2019.

The Full-Cycle Duck

What unfolds is the vast dynamics of human- and nature-mediated evolution and speciation. Like a modern-day Darwin, introducing his theory to the public in ORIGIN OF THE SPECIES, Lavretsky begins with man’s interaction with his environment.  Or more to the point, a duck hunter’s interaction with his duck. 

Phillip Lavretsky, himself, has been an avid duck hunter since his family emigrated from Russia to Los Angeles, because of relatives there.  His story is the story of a young boy, then a young researcher who knows duck, from the wet pond to the end of his (patented) knife, and fork.  He documents the American ducks he loves and knows so well.

The Underlying Theory of Divergence and Selection in American Duck

What is the gestalt of Lavertsky’s thought ( i.e., the World View he is working towards)? He hypothesizes that at the earliest stages of divergence, selection on a few, key genes or genetic regions is necessary to start the speciation process between two populations (Feder et al. 2012; Seehausen et al. 2014). To test this hypothesis, Lavretsky et al.(2015) set out to collect genetic data across the genomes of two closely related duck species, the globally wide-spread mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) and North American endemic, Mexican duck (Anas [p.] diazi).

These two are a part of the larger Mallard Complex, which is comprised of 14 mallard-like ducks found across major continents and Island systems, and specifically, within the New World Mallard group that also includes the American black duck (A. rubripes) and two populations of mottled ducks (A. fulvigula)(Lavretsky et al. 2014a; Lavretsky et al. 2014b).

End of Part I

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