The geographic scale of genetic differentiation in the feral pigeon (Columba livia): implications for management


Understanding the genetic connectivity among populations of spreading and problematic species is important to determine the spatial scale at which management actions need to be conducted. The feral pigeon (Columba livia) is considered to be a pest or an invasive species in many cities around the world, leading to frequent attempts to control its populations. In the present study, we used microsatellites markers to investigate the relationship between genetic structure and geographic distance among feral pigeons from different locations, and the patterns of genetic differentiation at two geographic scales, within and between urbanised areas. A Mantel’s test revealed that the levels of genetic differentiation increased significantly with the geographic distance separating the locations. We also found that neighbouring locations within urban areas are usually not genetically differentiated, suggesting that all of the feral pigeons in an urban zone constitute a single management unit. Our results suggest that in large, interconnected cities control by culling at the scale of a neighbourhood, in addition of generating ethical issues, will not be effective to decrease pigeon population sizes.

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The authors would like to thank Daniel Simberloff and two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on a previous version of this paper. This study is part of a larger research program on urban pigeons supported by grants from the ANRJC (ANR-05-JCJC-0098-01), the Region Ile-de-France (no. 06-1064 MN 07) and the Seine-Saint-Denis department.

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Correspondence to Emmanuelle Baudry.

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Jacob, G., Prévot-Julliard, AC. & Baudry, E. The geographic scale of genetic differentiation in the feral pigeon (Columba livia): implications for management. Biol Invasions 17, 23–29 (2015).

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  • Genetic structure
  • Problem species
  • Management
  • Dispersal
  • Isolation-by-distance
  • Feral pigeon
  • Columba livia