Polar Biology

, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 221–236 | Cite as

High connectivity in a long-lived high-Arctic seabird, the ivory gull Pagophila eburnea

  • Glenn Yannic
  • Jonathan M. Yearsley
  • Roberto Sermier
  • Christophe Dufresnes
  • Olivier Gilg
  • Adrian Aebischer
  • Maria V. Gavrilo
  • Hallvard Strøm
  • Mark L. Mallory
  • R. I. Guy Morrison
  • H. Grant Gilchrist
  • Thomas Broquet
Original Paper


Species may cope with rapid habitat changes by distribution shifts or adaptation to new conditions. A common feature of these responses is that they depend on how the process of dispersal connects populations, both demographically and genetically. We analyzed the genetic structure of a near-threatened high-Arctic seabird, the ivory gull (Pagophila eburnea) in order to infer the connectivity among gull colonies. We analyzed 343 individuals sampled from 16 localities across the circumpolar breeding range of ivory gulls, from northern Russia to the Canadian Arctic. To explore the roles of natal and breeding dispersal, we developed a population genetic model to relate dispersal behavior to the observed genetic structure of worldwide ivory gull populations. Our key finding is the striking genetic homogeneity of ivory gulls across their entire distribution range. The lack of population genetic structure found among colonies, in tandem with independent evidence of movement among colonies, suggests that ongoing effective dispersal is occurring across the Arctic Region. Our results contradict the dispersal patterns generally observed in seabirds where species movement capabilities are often not indicative of dispersal patterns. Model predictions show how natal and breeding dispersal may combine to shape the genetic homogeneity among ivory gull colonies separated by up to 2800 km. Although field data will be key to determine the role of dispersal for the demography of local colonies and refine the respective impacts of natal versus breeding dispersal, conservation planning needs to consider ivory gulls as a genetically homogeneous, Arctic-wide metapopulation effectively connected through dispersal.


Natal dispersal Breeding dispersal Effective number of breeders Population genetic structure Overlapping generation model 



This work was supported by grants from foundation Ellis Elliot (Switzerland), Société vaudoise des Sciences naturelles (Switzerland) and Nos Oiseaux (Switzerland) to G.Y., by a foundation Agassiz (Switzerland) grant to T.B. and by the Nicolas Perrin’s research group, Department of Ecology and Evolution at University of Lausanne, Switzerland. Field work in Greenland was supported by the National Geographic Society, Prix Gore-Tex initiative, Foundation Avenir Finance, the Arctic Ocean Diversity Census of Marine Life Project, CNES, CLS and F. Paulsen. The ivory gull project was part of the work plan of the Joint Norwegian-Russian Commission on Environmental Protection, and fieldwork in Norway and Russia was funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Environment, the Norwegian Polar Institute, Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute and Russian IPY 2007/08 program. We are grateful to Emmanuelle Pouivé, Brigitte Sabard, Vladimir Sokolov and Oleg Prodan, Vorkuta helicopter crew commanded by Sergey Kiryushkin for logistical assistance, Russian colleagues Mikhail Ivanov, Andrey and Elena Volkov for participating in fieldwork. Constructive comments by Nigel G. Yoccoz and two anonymous referees improved the manuscript.

Supplementary material

300_2015_1775_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 1046 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Glenn Yannic
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 16
  • Jonathan M. Yearsley
    • 4
  • Roberto Sermier
    • 5
  • Christophe Dufresnes
    • 5
  • Olivier Gilg
    • 3
    • 6
  • Adrian Aebischer
    • 3
    • 7
  • Maria V. Gavrilo
    • 8
    • 9
  • Hallvard Strøm
    • 10
  • Mark L. Mallory
    • 11
  • R. I. Guy Morrison
    • 12
  • H. Grant Gilchrist
    • 13
  • Thomas Broquet
    • 14
    • 15
  1. 1.Département de BiologieUniversité LavalQuebecCanada
  2. 2.Canada Research Chair in Polar and Boreal Ecology, Department of BiologyUniversité de MonctonMonctonCanada
  3. 3.Groupe de Recherche en Ecologie Arctique (GREA)FranchevilleFrance
  4. 4.School of Biology and Environmental ScienceUniversity College DublinBelfield, DublinIreland
  5. 5.Department of Ecology and EvolutionUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  6. 6.Laboratoire Biogéosciences, UMR CNRS 5561, Equipe Ecologie EvolutiveUniversité de BourgogneDijonFrance
  7. 7.Museum of Natural HistoryFribourgSwitzerland
  8. 8.National Park Russian ArcticArchangelskRussia
  9. 9.Joint Directorate of Taimyr Nature ReservesNorilskRussia
  10. 10.Norwegian Polar Institute, Fram CentreTromsøNorway
  11. 11.Department of BiologyAcadia UniversityWolfvilleCanada
  12. 12.Environment CanadaNational Wildlife Research CentreOttawaCanada
  13. 13.Environment Canada, National Wildlife Research Centre and Department of BiologyCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada
  14. 14.CNRS, Team Diversity and Connectivity of Coastal Marine LandscapesRoscoffFrance
  15. 15.UMR 7144Sorbonne Universités, UPMC Univ Paris 06RoscoffFrance
  16. 16.LECA - Laboratoire d’Ecologie Alpine - CNRS UMR 5553Université Savoie Mont BlancLe Bourget-Du-Lac CedexFrance

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