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Heredity (Edinb). 2012 Sep;109(3):163-72. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2012.26. Epub 2012 May 16.

Genetic diversity and population structure in contemporary house sparrow populations along an urbanization gradient.

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  • 1Terrestrial Ecology Unit, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.


House sparrow (Passer domesticus) populations have suffered major declines in urban as well as rural areas, while remaining relatively stable in suburban ones. Yet, to date no exhaustive attempt has been made to examine how, and to what extent, spatial variation in population demography is reflected in genetic population structuring along contemporary urbanization gradients. Here we use putatively neutral microsatellite loci to study if and how genetic variation can be partitioned in a hierarchical way among different urbanization classes. Principal coordinate analyses did not support the hypothesis that urban/suburban and rural populations comprise two distinct genetic clusters. Comparison of FST values at different hierarchical scales revealed drift as an important force of population differentiation. Redundancy analyses revealed that genetic structure was strongly affected by both spatial variation and level of urbanization. The results shown here can be used as baseline information for future genetic monitoring programmes and provide additional insights into contemporary house sparrow dynamics along urbanization gradients.

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