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Keywords:

  • genetic structure;
  • Irish;
  • microsatellites;
  • mitochondrial DNA;
  • origins;
  • phylogeography

The present study examined the contemporary genetic composition of the Eurasian badger, Meles meles, in Ireland, Britain and Western Europe, using six nuclear microsatellite loci and a 215-bp fragment of the mitochondrial DNA control region. Significant population structure was evident within Europe (global multilocus microsatellite FST = 0.205, P < 0.001; global mitochondrial control region ΦST = 0.399, P < 0.001). Microsatellite-based cluster analyses detected one population in Ireland, whereas badgers from Britain could be subdivided into several populations. Excluding the island populations of Ireland and Britain, badgers from Western Europe showed further structuring, with evidence of discrete Scandinavian, Central European, and Spanish populations. Mitochondrial DNA cluster analysis grouped the Irish population with Scandinavia and Spain, whereas the majority of British haplotypes grouped with those from Central Europe. The findings of the present study suggest that British and Irish badger populations colonized from different refugial areas, or that there were different waves of colonization from the source population. There are indications for the presence of an Atlantic fringe element, which has been seen in other Irish species. We discuss the results in light of the controversy about natural versus human-mediated introductions. © 2012 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2012, ••, ••–••.