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Nature. 2002 Mar 28;416(6879):424-7.

Patterns of colonization in a metapopulation of grey seals.

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  • 1University of Cambridge, Department of Zoology, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, UK.

Abstract

The colonization of a new habitat is a fundamental process in metapopulation biology, but it is difficult to study. The emigration of colonists from established populations might be induced by resource competition owing to high local population density. Migration distances are also important because they determine the frequency and scale of recolonization and hence the spatial scale of the metapopulation. Traditionally, these factors have been investigated with demographic approaches that are labour-intensive and are only possible in amenable species. In many cases, genetic differentiation is minimal, preventing traditional genetic approaches from identifying the source of colonists unambiguously. Here we present a bayesian approach that integrates genetic, demographic and geographic distance data. We apply the method to study the British metapopulation of grey seals, which has been growing at 6% per year over the last few decades. Our method reveals differential recruitment to three newly founded colonies and implicates density-dependent dispersal in metapopulation dynamics by using genetic data.

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