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Faria P.J.,University of Sao Paulo | Faria P.J.,University of Cardiff | Faria P.J.,Institute Florestal | Faria P.J.,Vale do Itajai University | And 20 more authors.
Journal of Avian Biology

The South American tern Sterna hirundinacea is a migratory species for which dispersal, site fidelity and migratory routes are largely unknown. Here, we used five microsatellite loci and 799 bp partial mitochondrial DNA sequences (Cytochrome b and ND2) to investigate the genetic structure of South American terns from the South Atlantic Ocean (Brazilian and Patagonian colonies). Brazilian and Patagonian colonies have two distinct breeding phenologies (austral winter and austral summer, respectively) and are under the influence of different oceanographic features (e.g. Brazil and Falklands/Malvinas ocean currents, respectively), that may promote genetic isolation between populations. Results show that the Atlantic populations are not completely panmictic, nevertheless, contrary to our expectations, low levels of genetic structure were detected between Brazilian and Patagonian colonies. Such low differentiation (despite temporal isolation of the colonies) could be explained by demographic history of these populations coupled with ongoing levels of gene flow. Interestingly, estimations of gene flow through Maximum likelihood and Bayesian approaches has indicated asymmetrical long term and contemporary gene flow from Brazilian to Patagonian colonies, approaching a source-sink metapopulation dynamic. Genetic analysis of other South American tern populations (especially those from the Pacific coast and Falklands-Malvinas Islands) and other seabird species showing similar geographical distribution (e.g. royal tern Thalasseus maximus), are fundamental in gaining a better understanding of the main processes involved in the diversification of seabirds in the southern hemisphere. © 2010 The Authors. Source

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