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Keywords:

  • microsatellite;
  • movement barriers;
  • mtDNA;
  • Picoides arcticus;
  • population genetic structure;
  • sex-biased movement

Abstract

We used population- and individual-based genetic approaches to assess barriers to movement in black-backed woodpeckers (Picoides arcticus), a fire-specialist that mainly occupies the boreal forest in North America. We tested if male and female woodpeckers exhibited the same movement patterns using both spatially implicit and explicit genetic analyses to define population structure and movement patterns of both sexes among populations. Three genetic groups were identified, a large, genetically continuous population that spans from the Rocky Mountains to Quebec, a small isolated population in South Dakota and a separate population in the western portion of their distribution (Oregon). Patterns of genetic diversity suggest extensive gene flow mediated by both males and females within the continuous boreal forest. However, male-mediated gene flow is the main form of connectivity between the continuously distributed group and the smaller populations of South Dakota and Oregon that are separated by large areas of unforested habitat, which apparently serves as a barrier to movement of female woodpeckers.