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Keywords:

  • control region;
  • human introduction;
  • Ireland;
  • microsatellites;
  • mitochondrial DNA;
  • phylogeography;
  • small mammal

The status of the pygmy shrew (Sorex minutus L.) as a native or an introduced species in Ireland has been subject to much debate. To examine this and other aspects of the colonization history of the Irish pygmy shrew, genetic variation was determined in 247 pygmy shrews collected throughout Ireland, using mitochondrial control region sequences and five polymorphic microsatellite loci. Genetic diversity was low for both types of marker. The median-joining network for control region sequences was star-like, suggesting that the colonization of Ireland involved a small number of founders and rapid population expansion thereafter; this was supported by other statistics. Molecular dating with both mitochondrial DNA and microsatellite data is consistent with a human introduction. This would have been several thousand years ago; a recent colonization within historical times can be ruled out. This is the first detailed population genetic study of the pygmy shrew anywhere in its range. © 2009 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2009, 97, 918–927.