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Keywords:

  • Antarctica;
  • microsatellite;
  • population genetics;
  • Pygoscelis adeliae

Abstract

Each summer Adélie penguins breed in large disjunct colonies on ice-free areas around the Antarctic continent. Comprising > 10 million birds, this species represents a dominant feature of the Antarctic ecosystem. The patchy distribution within a large geographical range, natal philopatry and a probable history of refugia, suggest that this species is likely to exhibit significant genetic differentiation within and among colonies. We present data from seven microsatellite DNA loci for 442 individuals from 13 locations around the Antarctic continent. With the exception of one locus, there was no significant genic or genotypic heterogeneity across populations. Pairwise FST values were low with no value > 0.02. When all colonies were compared in a single analysis, the overall FST value was 0.0007. Moreover, assignment tests were relatively ineffective at correctly placing individuals into their respective collection sites. These data reveal a lack of genetic differentiation between Adélie penguin colonies around the Antarctic continent, despite substantial levels of genetic variation. We consider this homogeneity in terms of the dispersal of individuals among colonies and the size of breeding groups and discuss our results in terms of the glacial history of Antarctica.