Using neutral cline decay to estimate contemporary dispersal: a generic tool and its application to a major crop pathogen


  • [Copyright line has been changed on 22 July 2014, after first online publication.]


Dispersal is a key parameter of adaptation, invasion and persistence. Yet standard population genetics inference methods hardly distinguish it from drift and many species cannot be studied by direct mark-recapture methods. Here, we introduce a method using rates of change in cline shapes for neutral markers to estimate contemporary dispersal. We apply it to the devastating banana pest Mycosphaerella fijiensis, a wind-dispersed fungus for which a secondary contact zone had previously been detected using landscape genetics tools. By tracking the spatio-temporal frequency change of 15 microsatellite markers, we find that σ, the standard deviation of parent–offspring dispersal distances, is 1.2 km/generation1/2. The analysis is further shown robust to a large range of dispersal kernels. We conclude that combining landscape genetics approaches to detect breaks in allelic frequencies with analyses of changes in neutral genetic clines offers a powerful way to obtain ecologically relevant estimates of dispersal in many species.