Bottlenecks, drift and differentiation: the population structure and demographic history of sika deer (Cervus nippon) in the Japanese archipelago


Simon J. Goodman. Fax.: 44-207-586-2870;


We assessed genetic differentiation and diversity in 14 populations of sika deer (Cervus nippon) from Japan and four populations of sika deer introduced to the UK, using nine microsatellite loci. We observed extreme levels of differentiation and significant differences in diversity between populations. Our results do not support morphological subspecies designations, but are consistent with previous mitochondrial DNA analyses which suggest the existence of two genetically distinct lineages of sika deer in Japan. The source of sika introduced to the UK was identified as Kyushu. The underlying structure of Japanese populations probably derives from drift in separate glacial refugia and male dispersal limited by distance. This structure has been perturbed by bottlenecks and habitat fragmentation, resulting from human activity from the mid-nineteenth century. Most current genetic differentiation and differences in diversity among populations probably result from recent drift. Coalescent model analysis suggests sika on each of the main Japanese islands have experienced different recent population histories. Hokkaido, which has large areas of continuous habitat, has maintained high levels of gene flow. In Honshu the population is highly fragmented and is likely to have been evolving by drift alone. In Kyushu there has been a balance between gene flow and drift but all the populations have experienced high levels of drift. Habitat fragment size was not significantly associated with genetic diversity in populations but there was a significant correlation between habitat fragment size and effective population size.