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Isolation by distance and gene flow in the Eurasian badger (Meles meles) at both a local and broad scale

Authors


L. Pope, Fax: +44 (0)114 2220002; E-mail: l.pope@sheffield.ac.uk

Abstract

Eurasian badgers, Meles meles, have been shown to possess limited genetic population structure within Europe; however, field studies have detected high levels of philopatry, which are expected to increase population structure. Population structure will be a consequence of both contemporary dispersal and historical processes, each of which is expected to be evident at a different scale. Therefore, to gain a greater understanding of gene flow in the badger, we examined microsatellite diversity both among and within badger populations, focusing on populations from the British Isles and western Europe. We found that while populations differed in their allelic diversity, the British Isles displayed a similar degree of diversity to the rest of western Europe. The lower genetic diversity occurring in Ireland, Norway and Scotland was more likely to have resulted from founder effects rather than contemporary population density. While there was significant population structure (FST = 0.19), divergence among populations was generally well explained by geographic distance (P < 0.0001) across the entire range studied of more than 3000 km. Transient effects from the Pleistocene appear to have been replaced by a strong pattern of genetic isolation by distance across western Europe, suggestive of colonization from a single refugium. Analysis of individuals within British populations through Mantel tests and spatial autocorrelation demonstrated that there was significant local population structure across 3–30 km, confirming that dispersal is indeed restricted. The isolation by distance observed among badger populations across western Europe is likely to be a consequence of this restricted local dispersal.

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