The population and landscape genetics of the European badger (Meles meles) in Ireland

Jimena Guerrero, Andrew W. Byrne, John Lavery, Eleanor Presho, Gavin Kelly, Emily A. Courcier, James O'Keeffe, Ursula Fogarty, Denise B. O'Meara, Dennis Ensing, Carl McCormick, Roman Biek, Robin A. Skuce, Adrian R. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The population genetic structure of free-ranging species is expected to reflect landscape-level effects. Quantifying the role of these factors and their relative contribution often has important implications for wildlife management. The population genetics of the European badger (Meles meles) have received considerable attention, not least because the species acts as a potential wildlife reservoir for bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in Britain and Ireland. Herein, we detail the most comprehensive population and landscape genetic study of the badger in Ireland to date—comprised of 454 Irish badger samples, genotyped at 14 microsatellite loci. Bayesian and multivariate clustering methods demonstrated continuous clinal variation across the island, with potentially distinct differentiation observed in Northern Ireland. Landscape genetic analyses identified geographic distance and elevation as the primary drivers of genetic differentiation, in keeping with badgers exhibiting high levels of philopatry. Other factors hypothesized to affect gene flow, including earth worm habitat suitability, land cover type, and the River Shannon, had little to no detectable effect. By providing a more accurate picture of badger population structure and the factors effecting it, these data can guide current efforts to manage the species in Ireland and to better understand its role in bTB.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10233-10246
Number of pages14
JournalEcology and Evolution
Volume8
Issue number20
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018

Keywords

  • dispersal
  • gene flow
  • landscape
  • population structure

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