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J Hered. 2013 Sep-Oct;104(5):639-48. doi: 10.1093/jhered/est041. Epub 2013 Jul 16.

Colonization and persistence of urban ant populations as revealed by joint estimation of kinship and population genetic parameters.

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Graduate School of Human Development and Environment, Kobe University, Tsurukabuto 3-11, Nada, Kobe, Japan.


The decrease in biodiversity due to increasing urbanization has been well documented, but the processes of colonization and maintenance of wildlife populations in urban areas remain poorly understood. We address this issue using 462 individuals from 10 urban populations of the ant Formica japonica in Kobe City, Japan. We sampled workers regardless of colony identity, genotyped them using 6 microsatellite loci, and estimated allele frequencies and genotypes of reproductive individuals, together with other population genetic parameters, by estimating kinship structure using a likelihood method. Estimated genetic diversity and effective size of populations were not associated with environmental parameters, suggesting that populations are unaffected by urbanization. However, effective population sizes were small, and frequent population bottlenecks were detected. These results suggest that urban F. japonica populations are unstable, and the possibility of frequent extinctions and recolonizations in urban habitats. Populations were moderately differentiated without isolation by distance, suggesting a strong dispersal ability that enables colonization of urban habitats. Dispersal was male biased. Collectively, F. japonica was regarded as an urban adapter, which can colonize urban habitats by virtue of its preference for open ground and high dispersal ability but can persist in urban populations for only a short time, showing a tendency as a temporary urban inhabitant.


bottleneck; colony; microsatellite; population genetics; sex-biased dispersal; urbanization

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