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Heredity (Edinb). 2011 Jan;106(1):183-90. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2010.32. Epub 2010 Apr 7.

Low genetic differentiation in a sedentary bird: house sparrow population genetics in a contiguous landscape.

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  • 1Department of Biological & Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland. jaana.kekkonen@helsinki.fi


The house sparrow Passer domesticus has been declining in abundance in many localities, including Finland. We studied the genetic diversity and differentiation of the house sparrow populations across Finland in the 1980s, at the onset of the species' decline in abundance. We genotyped 472 adult males (the less dispersive sex) from 13 locations in Finland (covering a range of 400 × 800 km) and one in Sweden (Stockholm) for 13 polymorphic microsatellite markers. Our analysis of Finnish ringing records showed that natal dispersal distances are limited (90% <16 km), which confirmed earlier finding from other countries. The Finnish populations were panmictic, and genetically very homogeneous and the limited dispersal was sufficiently large to maintain their connectivity. However, all Finnish populations differed significantly from the Stockholm population, even though direct geographical distance to it was often smaller than among Finnish populations. Hence, the open sea between Finland and Sweden appears to form a dispersal barrier for this species, whereas dispersal is much less constrained across the Finnish mainland (which lacks geographical barriers). Our findings provide a benchmark for conservation biologists and emphasize the influence of landscape structure on gene flow.

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