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Proc Biol Sci. 2006 Dec 7;273(1604):3001-9.

Ecological correlates of population genetic structure: a comparative approach using a vertebrate metacommunity.

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Department of Zoology, 3029 Cordley Hall, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331-2914, USA.


Identifying ecological factors associated with population genetic differentiation is important for understanding microevolutionary processes and guiding the management of threatened populations. We identified ecological correlates of several population genetic parameters for three interacting species (two garter snakes and an anuran) that occupy a common landscape. Using multiple regression analysis, we found that species interactions were more important in explaining variation in population genetic parameters than habitat and nearest-neighbour characteristics. Effective population size was best explained by census size, while migration was associated with differences in species abundance. In contrast, genetic distance was poorly explained by the ecological correlates that we tested, but geographical distance was prominent in models for all species. We found substantially different population dynamics for the prey species relative to the two predators, characterized by larger effective sizes, lower gene flow and a state of migration-drift equilibrium. We also identified an escarpment formed by a series of block faults that serves as a barrier to dispersal for the predators. Our results suggest that successful landscape-level management should incorporate genetic and ecological data for all relevant species, because even closely associated species can exhibit very different population genetic dynamics on the same landscape.

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