Genetic structure in a solitary rodent (Ctenomys talarum): implications for kinship and dispersal

Authors

  • A. P. CUTRERA,

    Corresponding author
    1. Laboratorio de Ecofisiología, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata, CC 1245 Mar del Plata, Argentina,
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  • E. A. LACEY,

    1. Museum of Vertebrate Zoology and Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720 USA
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  • C. BUSCH

    1. Laboratorio de Ecofisiología, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata, CC 1245 Mar del Plata, Argentina,
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Ana Paula Cutrera, Fax: 54 223 4753150; E-mail: acutrera@mdp.edu.ar

Abstract

The genetic structure of a population provides critical insights into patterns of kinship and dispersal. Although genetic evidence of kin structure has been obtained for multiple species of social vertebrates, this aspect of population biology has received considerably less attention among solitary taxa in which spatial and social relationships are unlikely to be influenced by kin selection. Nevertheless, significant kin structure may occur in solitary species, particularly if ecological or life history traits limit individual vagility. To explore relationships between genetic structure, kinship, and dispersal in a solitary vertebrate, we compared patterns of genetic variation in two demographically distinct populations of the talar tuco-tuco (Ctenomys talarum), a solitary species of subterranean rodent from Buenos Aires Province, Argentina. Based on previous field studies of C. talarum at Mar de Cobo (MC) and Necochea (NC), we predicted that natal dispersal in these populations is male biased, with dispersal distances for males and females being greater at NC. Analyses of 12 microsatellite loci revealed that in both populations, kin structure was more apparent among females than among males. Between populations, kinship and genetic substructure were more pronounced at MC. Thus, our findings were consistent with predicted patterns of dispersal for these animals. Collectively, these results indicate that populations of this solitary species are characterized by significant kin structure, suggesting that, even in the absence of sociality and kin selection, the spatial distributions and movements of individuals may significantly impact patterns of genetic diversity among conspecifics.

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