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Heredity (Edinb). 2014 Dec;113(6):514-25. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2014.56. Epub 2014 Jul 2.

Morphology and genetics reveal an intriguing pattern of differentiation at a very small geographic scale in a bird species, the forest thrush Turdus lherminieri.

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  • 1Biogéosciences, UMR CNRS 6282, Equipe BIOME, Université de Bourgogne, Dijon, France.
  • 2Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage, CNERA Avifaune Migratrice, Station Biologique de Chizé, Carrefour de la Canauderie, Villiers en Bois, France.
  • 31] Biogéosciences, UMR CNRS 6282, Equipe BIOME, Université de Bourgogne, Dijon, France [2] Laboratoire EPHE PALEVO-Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Dijon, France.
  • 4Institut des Sciences de l'Evolution de Montpellier, IMR CNRS 5554 and UMR IRD 226, Université de Montpellier II, Place Eugène Bataillon, CC065, Montpellier, France.
  • 51] Biogéosciences, UMR CNRS 6282, Equipe BIOME, Université de Bourgogne, Dijon, France [2] Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage, CNERA Avifaune Migratrice, Station Biologique de Chizé, Carrefour de la Canauderie, Villiers en Bois, France.

Abstract

Mobile organisms are expected to show population differentiation only over fairly large geographical distances. However, there is growing evidence of discrepancy between dispersal potential and realized gene flow. Here we report an intriguing pattern of differentiation at a very small spatial scale in the forest thrush (Turdus lherminieri), a bird species endemic to the Lesser Antilles. Analysis of 331 individuals from 17 sampling sites distributed over three islands revealed a clear morphological and genetic differentiation between these islands isolated by 40-50 km. More surprisingly, we found that the phenotypic divergence between the two geographic zones of the island of Guadeloupe was associated with a very strong genetic differentiation (Fst from 0.073-0.153), making this pattern a remarkable case in birds given the very small spatial scale considered. Molecular data (mitochondrial control region sequences and microsatellite genotypes) suggest that this strong differentiation could have occurred in situ, although alternative hypotheses cannot be fully discarded. This study suggests that the ongoing habitat fragmentation, especially in tropical forests, may have a deeper impact than previously thought on avian populations.

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