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Factors shaping gene flow in red deer (Cervus elaphus) in seminatural landscapes of central Europe

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We studied gene flow and connectivity between three subpopulations and nine groups of red deer (Cervus elaphus L., 1758) occurring in forests in northeastern Poland and western Belarus. The red deer in this region mostly originated from translocated individuals that were introduced primarily in the 19th and 20th centuries. The genetic structure of the population has been identified during the previous study. Using 14 microsatellite loci, we detected 14 first-generation migrants between the three subpopulations and 21 among the nine groups of deer. The number of effective migrants (Nm) was estimated to be 2.5 individuals/generation between the subpopulations and 6.2 individuals/generation between the groups. About 80% of first-generation migrants moved less than 150 km. The gene flow of hinds and stags was similar. A least cost path (LCP) analysis was performed using different habitat types: deciduous and mixed forests, coniferous forests, wetlands, meadows, arable lands, scarce settlements, dense settlements, and waters. No significant barriers to dispersal were detected, but individual dispersal was restricted in space by the significant isolation by distance. The best model, explaining the genetic distance (F ST/1 – F ST) between the forests, suggested that LCP corridor length limited gene flow and high forest cover within LCP corridors increased gene flow among the forests.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, 17-230 Białowieża, Poland. 2: Institute of Integrative and Comparative Biology, Faculty of Biological Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK.

Publication date: 2012-02-24

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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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