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Heredity (Edinb). 2001 Jun;86(Pt 6):716-30.

Genetic structure of Siberian lemmings (Lemmus sibiricus) in a continuous habitat: large patches rather than isolation by distance.

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  • 1Division of Zoology, Department of Biology, University of Oslo, PO Box 1050, Blindern, N-0316 Oslo, Norway.


In a continuous habitat, restricted dispersal and local genetic drift are likely to create a pattern of increasing genetic differentiation with distance. Here, we describe the genetic structure of Siberian lemming (Lemmus sibiricus) populations in a continuous tundra habitat on the western coast of the Taimyr Peninsula, in order to determine the spatial scale at which genetic differentiation and isolation by distance occur. Sampling was carried out at three different geographical scales: (1) a continuous 11 km transect; (2) localities 10-30 km apart; and (3) two localities at 300 and 600 km from the main study area. Two types of genetic markers were used: partial sequences of the mitochondrial DNA control region and four microsatellite loci. On this basis the study populations were genetically quite homogeneous within patches extending over 8 km or more. Contrary to theoretical predictions, no pattern of isolation by distance among patches could be identified. This observation was interpreted as representing populations in migration-drift disequilibrium after a recent major mixing event. The lack of concordance between mtDNA haplotype phylogeny and the geographical distribution of haplotypes supported this interpretation. Spatial autocorrelation among individual genotypes on a local scale was weak and observed only in females, indicating a considerable amount of mostly male-mediated gene flow. Average gene flow per generation was estimated to be in the range of several hundred metres.

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