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PeerJ. 2014 Mar 13;2:e310. doi: 10.7717/peerj.310. eCollection 2014.

Urban park characteristics, genetic variation, and historical demography of white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) populations in New York City.

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Department of Biological Sciences and the Louis Calder Center-Biological Field Station, Fordham University , Armonk, NY , USA.
Mianus River Gorge Preserve , Bedford, NY , USA.


Severe fragmentation is a typical fate of native remnant habitats in cities, and urban wildlife with limited dispersal ability are predicted to lose genetic variation in isolated urban patches. However, little information exists on the characteristics of urban green spaces required to conserve genetic variation. In this study, we examine whether isolation in New York City (NYC) parks results in genetic bottlenecks in white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus), and test the hypotheses that park size and time since isolation are associated with genetic variability using nonlinear regression and information-theoretic model selection. White-footed mice have previously been documented to exhibit male-biased dispersal, which may create disparities in genetic variation between males and females in urban parks. We use genotypes of 18 neutral microsatellite data and four different statistical tests to assess this prediction. Given that sex-biased dispersal may create disparities between population genetic patterns inferred from bi- vs. uni-parentally inherited markers, we also sequenced a 324 bp segment of the mitochondrial D-loop for independent inferences of historical demography in urban P. leucopus. We report that isolation in urban parks does not necessarily result in genetic bottlenecks; only three out of 14 populations in NYC parks exhibited a signature of a recent bottleneck at 18 neutral microsatellite loci. Mouse populations in larger urban parks, or parks that have been isolated for shorter periods of time, also do not generally contain greater genetic variation than populations in smaller parks. These results suggest that even small networks of green spaces may be sufficient to maintain the evolutionary potential of native species with certain characteristics. We also found that isolation in urban parks results in weak to nonexistent sex-biased dispersal in a species known to exhibit male-biased dispersal in less fragmented environments. In contrast to nuclear loci, mitochondrial D-loop haplotypes exhibited a mutational pattern of demographic expansion after a recent bottleneck or selective sweep. Estimates of the timing of this expansion suggest that it occurred concurrent with urbanization of NYC over the last few dozens to hundreds of years. Given the general non-neutrality of mtDNA in many systems and evidence of selection on related coding sequences in urban P. leucopus, we argue that the P. leucopus mitochondrial genome experienced recent negative selection against haplotypes not favored in isolated urban parks. In general, rapid adaptive evolution driven by urbanization, global climate change, and other human-caused factors is underappreciated by evolutionary biologists, but many more cases will likely be documented in the near future.


Genetic bottleneck; Genetic variation; Historical demography; Mitochondrial DNA; Peromyscus leucopus; Population genetics; Selective sweep; Sex-biased dispersal; Urban ecology; Urban evolutionary biology

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