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Biol Lett. 2007 Feb 22;3(1):33-5.

Spatial genetic analysis and long-term mark-recapture data demonstrate male-biased dispersal in a snake.

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  • 1School of Botany and Zoology, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia. scott.keogh@anu.edu.au


Dispersal is an important life-history trait, but it is notoriously difficult to study. The most powerful approach is to attack the problem with multiple independent sources of data. We integrated information from a 14-year demographic study with molecular data from five polymorphic microsatellite loci to test the prediction of male-biased dispersal in a common elapid species from eastern Australia, the small-eyed snake Rhinoplocephalus nigrescens. These snakes have a polygynous mating system in which males fight for access to females. Our demographic data demonstrate that males move farther than females (about twice as far on average, and about three times for maximum distances). This sex bias in adult dispersal was evident also in the genetic data, which showed a strong and significant genetic signature of male-biased dispersal. Together, the genetic and demographic data suggest that gene flow is largely mediated by males in this species.

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