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Influence of sampling scheme on the inference of sex-biased gene flow in the American badger (Taxidea taxus)

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Population genetics has fueled a substantial growth in studies of dispersal, a life-history trait that has important applications in ecology and evolution. Mammals typically exhibit male-biased gene flow, so this pattern often serves as a null hypothesis in empirical studies. Estimation of dispersal using population genetics is not without biases, so we utilized a combination of population genetic methods and simulations to evaluate gene flow within the American badger (Taxidea taxus (Schreber, 1777)), a highly elusive and poorly understood mustelid. A total of 132 badgers captured between 2001 and 2002 were genotyped at nine microsatellite loci to investigate fine-scale genetic structure consistent with philopatry in females and dispersal in males. Resultant genetic patterns were largely consistent with a panmictic population with little evidence for sex-biased dispersal, and simulations confirmed that our sampling scheme did not substantially impact our statistics. An overall deficiency of heterozygotes was observed across the Lower Peninsula, which indicates either a Wahlund effect, mixing of separate populations, or inbreeding. Our study emphasizes the importance in deciphering between actual behavioral mechanisms and sampling effects when interpreting genetic data to understand other factors that influence dispersal like population density and territoriality.

Keywords: American badger; Taxidea taxus; autocorrélation spatiale; blaireau d’Amérique; dispersion biaisée selon le sexe; sampling; sex-biased dispersal; spatial autocorrelation; échantillonnage

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Biological Sciences, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI 53211, USA. 2: Department of Biology, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, MI 48859, USA.

Publication date: September 7, 2012

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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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