Social constraint and an absence of sex-biased dispersal drive fine-scale genetic structure in white-winged choughs

Authors

  • N. R. BECK,

    1. Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia,
    2. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, 203 Channel Highway, Kingston, Tas. 7050, Australia
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  • R. PEAKALL,

    1. School of Botany and Zoology, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia,
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  • R. HEINSOHN

    1. Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia,
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Dr Nadeena Beck, Fax: +61 2 6229 7470; E-mail: nadeena.beck@environment.gov.au

Abstract

This study used eight polymorphic microsatellite loci to examine the relative effects of social organization and dispersal on fine-scale genetic structure in an obligately cooperative breeding bird, the white-winged chough (Corcorax melanorhamphos). Using both individual-level and population-level analyses, it was found that the majority of chough groups consisted of close relatives and there was significant differentiation among groups (FST = 0.124). However, spatial autocorrelation analysis revealed strong spatial genetic structure among groups up to 2 km apart, indicating above average relatedness among neighbours. Multiple analyses showed a unique lack of sex-biased dispersal. As such, choughs may offer a model species for the study of the evolution of sex-biased dispersal in cooperatively breeding birds. These findings suggest that genetic structure in white-winged choughs reflects the interplay between social barriers to dispersal resulting in large family groups that can remain stable over long periods of times, and short dispersal distances which lead to above average relatedness among neighbouring groups.

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