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Variable extent of sex-biased dispersal in a strongly polygynous mammal

Authors

  • S. PÉREZ-ESPONA,

    1. School of Biological Sciences, Institute of Evolutionary Biology, The University of Edinburgh, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JT, UK
    2. The Macaulay Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen AB15 8QH, UK
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  • F. J. PÉREZ-BARBERÍA,

    1. The Macaulay Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen AB15 8QH, UK
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  • C. D. JIGGINS,

    1. School of Biological Sciences, Institute of Evolutionary Biology, The University of Edinburgh, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JT, UK
    2. Department of Zoology, The University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
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  • I. J. GORDON,

    1. The Macaulay Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen AB15 8QH, UK
    2. Sustainable Ecosystems, CSIRO—Davies Laboratory, PMB PO Aitkenvale, Qld 4814, Australia
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  • J. M. PEMBERTON

    1. School of Biological Sciences, Institute of Evolutionary Biology, The University of Edinburgh, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JT, UK
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  • This study is part of Sílvia Pérez-Espona’s Ph.D. thesis on population genetics of red deer in mainland Scotland undertaken in Josephine Pemberton’s lab. The project is part of the research programme on population performance and distribution of Scottish red deer carried out by Javier Pérez-Barbería in the Ecology of Grazed Ecosystems department at the Macaulay Institute. At the conception of the project, Iain Gordon was head of the Ecology of Grazed Ecosystems Programme at the Macaulay Institute. Chris Jiggins’ main interests are on the evolution of colour pattern and genomics of butterflies but he co-supervised some of the molecular aspects of this study.

Sílvia Pérez-Espona, Fax: +44 (0) 117 331 7985; E-mail: silvia.perezespona@bristol.ac.uk; s.perezespona@googlemail.com

Abstract

For mammals with a polygynous mating system, dispersal is expected to be male-biased. However, with the increase in empirical studies, discrepancies are arising between the expected and observed direction/extent of the bias in dispersal. In this study, we assessed sex-biased dispersal in red deer (Cervus elaphus) on 13 estates from the Scottish Highlands. A total of 568 adult individuals were genotyped at 21 microsatellite markers and sequenced for 821 bp of the mitochondrial control region. Estimates of population structure with mitochondrial sequences were eight times larger than that obtained with microsatellite data (Fst′-mtDNA = 0.831; Fst′-micros = 0.096) indicating overall male-biased dispersal in the study area. Comparisons of microsatellite data between the sexes indicated a predominance of male-biased dispersal in the study area but values of FST and relatedness were only slighter larger for females. Individual-based spatial autocorrelation analysis generated a similar pattern of relatedness across geographical distances for both sexes, with differences only significant at two distance intervals (25–30 and 70–112 km). Patterns of relatedness differed between estates, male biased-dispersal was detected in eight estates but no sex-biased dispersal was found in the remaining five. Neither population density nor landscape cover was found to be associated with the patterns of relatedness found across the estates. Differences in management strategies that could influence age structure, sex ratio and dispersal behaviour are proposed as potential factors influencing the relatedness patterns observed. This study provides new insights on dispersal of a strongly polygynous mammal at geographical scales relevant for management and conservation.

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