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Genetic analysis of the population structure of socially organized oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus) using microsatellites

Authors


R. Van Treuren Fax: + 31 317418094; E-mail: r.vantreuren@cpro.dlo.nl

Abstract

On the island of Schiermonnikoog (The Netherlands), the breeding population of oystercatchers can be divided into two groups: ‘residents’ and ‘leapfrogs’, based on their distinct social characteristics and limited probabilities of status change between breeding seasons. In order to investigate whether this social organization has caused local genetic differentiation, leapfrogs and residents were compared at eight polymorphic microsatellite loci. No significant genetic subdivision between residents and leapfrogs was observed (Θ = 0.0000; 95% confidence interval (CI), –0.0027–0.0033), indicating that the oystercatcher population on the island of Schiermonnikoog has to be considered as one panmictic unit. Investigation of three additional locations in the northern part of The Netherlands did not reveal significant genetic population subdivision either (Θ = – 0.0005; 95% CI, – 0.0045–0.0037), despite the fact that adult oystercatchers show extreme fidelity to their breeding localities. These results indicate panmixis and considerable levels of gene flow within the northern part of The Netherlands. Thus, the results from genetical analyses do not seem to be in agreement with observational data on the dispersal behaviour of breeding individuals. It is argued that the lack of population structure, locally on Schiermonnikoog as well as across larger geographical distances, is to be attributed to high levels of gene flow through dispersal of juvenile birds.

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