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Population genetic structure of raccoons (Procyon lotor) inhabiting a highly fragmented landscape

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The raccoon (Procyon lotor (L., 1758)), a generalist mesocarnivore, has thrived in anthropogenically fragmented landscapes. In this study we utilized 13 microsatellites to analyze the population genetic structure in raccoons occupying an agriculturally fragmented habitat. Our analyses revealed low, but significant, levels of genetic structure (FST = 0.022, P < 0.001) among 645 raccoons inhabiting 29 spatially distinct habitat patches (neighborhoods). We found no evidence for the presence of either isolation by distance or barriers. However, spatial autocorrelation revealed evidence for social structure at the raccoon-neighborhood scale. About 30% of the variance in levels of social structure among raccoon neighborhoods was explained by effects of habitat-patch size and the percentage of land cover represented by forest around the individual habitat patch. We found strong evidence of sex-biased dispersal using direct (parentage analysis) and indirect (relatedness and assignment indices) genetic estimators. However, our analysis revealed that among dispersing raccoons there was no difference in dispersal distance between sexes and that dispersal events are randomly distributed with respect to distance. Our study provides evidence that demographic and behavioral processes affecting raccoon spatial organization may be most critical at very fine scales of biological organization, such as within individual habitat patches.

Le raton laveur (Procyon lotor (L., 1758)), un mésocarnivore généraliste, a prospéré dans les paysages fragmentés par l’activité humaine. Nous utilisons, dans notre étude, 13 microsatellites pour déterminer la structure génétique de la population chez des ratons laveurs qui vivent dans un habitat fragmenté par l’agriculture. Nos analyses révèlent des niveaux bas, mais significatifs, de structure génétique (FST = 0,022, P < 0,001) parmi 645 ratons laveurs vivant dans 29 taches d’habitat distinctes (quartiers). Il n’y a aucune indication d’isolement par la distance, ni de barrières. Cependant, l’autocorrélation spatiale donne des indications d’une structure sociale à l’échelle des quartiers de ratons laveurs. Environ 30 % de la variance des niveaux de structure sociale entre les quartiers de ratons laveurs s’explique par les effets de la taille de la tache d’habitat et le pourcentage de la couverture du sol autour des taches individuelles d’habitat qui est représenté par de la forêt. Des estimateurs génétiques directs (analyse de filiation) et indirects (indices de consanguinité et d’attribution) indiquent clairement une dispersion variable en fonction du sexe. Cependant, notre analyse révèle que, parmi les ratons laveurs qui se dispersent, il n’y a pas de différence de distance de dispersion en fonction des sexes et que les événements de dispersion sont répartis au hasard en fonction de la distance. Notre étude fournit des indications que les processus démographiques et comportementaux qui affectent l’organisation spatiale des ratons laveurs peuvent agir de la façon la plus critique aux échelles très fines de l’organisation biologique, par exemple à l’intérieur des taches individuelles d’habitat.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-09-01

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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