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Heredity (Edinb). 2014 Feb;112(2):190-6. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2013.91. Epub 2013 Oct 2.

Extremely reduced dispersal and gene flow in an island bird.

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Laboratoire Evolution et Diversité Biologique, UMR 5174 Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)-Université Paul Sabatier-Ecole Nationale de Formation Agronomique, Toulouse, France.
Société Calédonienne d'Ornithologie Nord, Nouvelle-Calédonie, France.
Department of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology, National Museum of Natural Sciences, Spanish Research Council (CSIC), Madrid, Spain.


The Réunion grey white-eye, Zosterops borbonicus, a passerine bird endemic to Réunion Island in the Mascarene archipelago, represents an extreme case of microgeographical plumage colour variation in birds, with four distinct colour forms occupying different parts of this small island (2512 km(2)). To understand whether such population differentiation may reflect low levels of dispersal and gene flow at a very small spatial scale, we examined population structure and gene flow by analysing variation at 11 microsatellite loci among four geographically close localities (<26 km apart) sampled within the distribution range of one of the colour forms, the brown-headed brown form. Our results revealed levels of genetic differentiation that are exceptionally high for birds at such a small spatial scale. This strong population structure appears to reflect low levels of historical and contemporary gene flow among populations, unless very close geographically (<10 km). Thus, we suggest that the Réunion grey white-eye shows an extremely reduced propensity to disperse, which is likely to be related to behavioural processes.

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