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The spatial genetic structure of bank vole (Myodes glareolus) and yellow-necked mouse (Apodemus flavicollis) populations: The effect of distance and habitat barriers

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Habitat barriers are considered to be an important factor causing the local reduction of genetic diversity by dividing a population into smaller sections and preventing gene flow between them. However, the “barrier effect” might be different in the case of different species. The effect of geographic distance and water barriers on the genetic structure of populations of two common rodent species – the yellow-necked mouse (Apodemus flavicollis) and the bank vole (Myodes glareolus) living in the area of a lake (on its islands and on two opposite shores) was investigated with the use of microsatellite fragment analysis. The two studied species are characterised by similar habitat requirements, but differ with regard to the socio-spatial structure of the population, individual mobility, capability to cross environmental barriers, and other factors. Trapping was performed for two years in spring and autumn in north-eastern Poland (21°E, 53°N). A total of 160 yellow-necked mouse individuals (7 microsatellite loci) and 346 bank vole individuals (9 microsatellite loci) were analysed. The results of the differentiation analyses (FST and RST) have shown that both the barrier which is formed by a ca. 300 m wide belt of water (between the island and the mainland) and the actual distance of approximately 10 km in continuous populations are sufficient to create genetic differentiation within both species. The differences between local populations living on opposite lake shores are the smallest; differences between any one of them and the island populations are more distinct. All of the genetic diversity indices (the mean number of alleles, mean allelic richness, as well as the observed and expected heterozygosity) of the local populations from the lakeshores were significantly higher than of the small island populations of these two species separated by the water barrier. The more profound “isolation effect” in the case of the island populations of the bank vole, in comparison to the yellow-necked mouse populations, seems to result not only from the lower mobility of the bank vole species, but may also be attributed to other differences in the animals' behaviour.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Ecology, University of Warsaw, Banacha 2, 02-097 Warsaw, Poland;, Email:; 2: Department of Ecology, University of Warsaw, Banacha 2, 02-097 Warsaw, Poland; 3: Museum and Institute of Zoology Polish Academy of Sciences, Wilcza 64, 00-679 Warsaw, Poland


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