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Ecology. 2012 Jul;93(7):1717-27.

Genes and song: genetic and social connections in fragmented habitat in a woodland bird with limited dispersal.

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1
School of Biological Sciences and Australian Centre for Biodiversity, Monash University, Melbourne, Clayton Campus, Clayton, VIC 3800, Australia. alexandra.pavlova@monash.edu

Abstract

Understanding the processes leading to population declines in fragmented landscapes is essential for successful conservation management. However, isolating the influence of disparate processes, and dispersal in particular, is challenging. The Grey Shrike-thrush, Colluricincla harmonica, is a sedentary woodland-dependent songbird, with learned vocalizations whose incidence in suitable habitat patches falls disproportionally with decline in tree cover in the landscape. Although it has been suggested that gaps in tree cover might act as barriers to its dispersal, the species remains in many remnants of native vegetation in agricultural landscapes, suggesting that it may have responded to habitat removal and fragmentation by maintaining or even increasing dispersal distances. We quantified population connectivity of the Grey Shrike-thrush in a system fragmented over more than 120 years using genetic (microsatellites) and acoustic (song types) data. First, we tested for population genetic and acoustic structure at regional and local scales in search of barriers to dispersal or gene flow and signals of local spatial structuring indicative of restricted dispersal or localized acoustic similarity. Then we tested for effects of habitat loss and fragmentation on genetic and acoustic connectivity by fitting alternative models of mobility (isolation-by-distance [the null model] and reduced and increased movement models) across treeless vs. treed areas. Birds within -5 km of each other had more similar genotypes and song types than those farther away, suggesting that dispersal and song matching are limited in the region. Despite restricted dispersal detected for females (but not males), populations appeared to be connected by gene flow and displayed some cultural (acoustic) connectivity across the region. Fragmentation did not appear to impact greatly the dispersal of the Grey Shrike-thrush: none of the mobility models fit the genetic distances of males, whereas for females, an isolation-by-distance model could not be rejected in favor of the models of reduced or increased movement through treeless gaps. However, dissimilarities of the song types were more consistent with the model of reduced cultural connectivity through treeless areas, suggesting that fragmentation impedes song type sharing in the Grey Shrike-thrush. Our paper demonstrates that habitat fragmentation hinders important population processes in an Australian woodland bird even though its dispersal is not detectably impacted.

PMID:
22919917
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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