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Keywords:

  • Gorilla gorilla gorilla;
  • population structure;
  • sex-specific dispersal;
  • philopatry

To understand the evolutionary histories and conservation potential of wild animal species it is useful to assess whether taxa are genetically structured into different populations and identify the underlying factors responsible for any clustering. Landscape features such as rivers may influence genetic population structure, and analysis of structure by sex can further reveal effects of sex-specific dispersal. Using microsatellite genotypes obtained from noninvasively collected fecal samples we investigated the population structure of 261 western lowland gorillas (WLGs) (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) from seven locations spanning an approximately 37,000 km2 region of mainly continuous rain forest within Central African Republic (CAR), Republic of Congo and Cameroon. We found our sample to consist of two or three significantly differentiated clusters. The boundaries of the clusters coincided with courses of major rivers. Moreover, geographic distance detoured around rivers better-explained variation in genetic distance than straight line distance. Together these results suggest that major rivers in our study area play an important role in directing WLG gene flow. The number of clusters did not change when males and females were analyzed separately, indicating a lack of greater philopatry in WLG females than males at this scale. Am. J. Primatol. 76:868–878, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.