Historical processes and landscape context influence genetic structure in peripheral populations of the collared lizard (Crotaphytus collaris)
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- Blevins, E., Wisely, S.M. & With, K.A. Landscape Ecol (2011) 26: 1125. doi:10.1007/s10980-011-9631-1
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Populations at the periphery of a species’ range often show reduced genetic variability within populations and increased genetic divergence among populations compared to those at the core, but the mechanisms that give rise to this core-periphery pattern in genetic structure can be multifaceted. Peripheral population characteristics may be a product of historical processes, such as founder effects or population expansion, or due to the contemporary influence of landscape context on gene flow. We sampled collared lizards (Crotaphytus collaris) at four locations within the northern Flint Hills of Kansas, which is at the northern periphery of their range, to determine the genetic variability and extent of genetic divergence among populations for ten microsatellite loci (n = 229). We found low genetic variability (average allelic richness = 3.37 ± 0.23 SE; average heterozygosity = 0.54 ± 0.05 SE) and moderate population divergence (average FST = 0.08 ± 0.01 SE) among our sample sites relative to estimates reported in the literature at the core of the species’ range in Texas. We also identified differences in dispersal rates among sampling locations. Gene flow within the Flint Hills was thus greater than for other peripheral populations of collared lizards, such as the Missouri glade system where most of the mesic grasslands have been converted to forest since the last glacial retreat, which appears to have greatly impeded gene flow among populations. Our findings signify the importance of considering landscape context when evaluating core-peripheral trends in genetic diversity and population structure.