Low genetic variability, female-biased dispersal and high movement rates in an urban population of Eurasian badgers Meles meles

Authors


*Correspondence author. M. Huck, Department of Biology and Environmental Science, University of Sussex, Brighton BN1 9QG, UK. E-mail: maren_huck@hotmail.com

Summary

  • 1Urban and rural populations of animals can differ in their behaviour, both in order to meet their ecological requirements and due to the constraints imposed by different environments. The study of urban populations can therefore offer useful insights into the behavioural flexibility of a species as a whole, as well as indicating how the species in question adapts to a specifically urban environment.
  • 2The genetic structure of a population can provide information about social structure and movement patterns that is difficult to obtain by other means. Using non-invasively collected hair samples, we estimated the population size of Eurasian badgers Meles meles in the city of Brighton, England, and calculated population-specific parameters of genetic variability and sex-specific rates of outbreeding and dispersal.
  • 3Population density was high in the context of badger densities reported throughout their range. This was due to a high density of social groups rather than large numbers of individuals per group.
  • 4The allelic richness of the population was low compared with other British populations. However, the rate of extra-group paternity and the relatively frequent (mainly temporary) intergroup movements suggest that, on a local scale, the population was outbred. Although members of both sexes visited other groups, there was a trend for more females to make intergroup movements.
  • 5The results reveal that urban badgers can achieve high densities and suggest that while some population parameters are similar between urban and rural populations, the frequency of intergroup movements is higher among urban badgers. In a wider context, these results demonstrate the ability of non-invasive genetic sampling to provide information about the population density, social structure and behaviour of urban wildlife.

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