Population history, gene flow, and bottlenecks in island populations of a secondary seed disperser, the southern grey shrike (Lanius meridionalis koenigi)

David P. Padilla, Lewis G. Spurgin, Eleanor A. Fairfield, Juan-Carlos Illera, David S. Richardson

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Studying the population history and demography of organisms with important ecological roles can aid understanding of evolutionary processes at the community level and inform conservation. We screened genetic variation (mtDNA and microsatellite) across the populations of the southern grey shrike (Lanius meridionalis koenigi) in the Canary Islands, where it is an endemic subspecies and an important secondary seed disperser. We show that the Canarian subspecies is polyphyletic with L. meridionalis elegans from North Africa and that shrikes have colonized the Canary Islands from North Africa multiple times. Substantial differences in genetic diversity exist across islands, which are most likely the product of a combination of historical colonization events and recent bottlenecks. The Eastern Canary Islands had the highest overall levels of genetic diversity and have probably been most recently and/or frequently colonized from Africa. Recent or ongoing bottlenecks were detected in three of the islands and are consistent with anecdotal evidence of population declines due to human disturbance. These findings are troubling given the shrike's key ecological role in the Canary Islands, and further research is needed to understand the community-level consequences of declines in shrike populations. Finally, we found moderate genetic differentiation among populations, which largely reflected the shrike's bottleneck history; however, a significant pattern of isolation-by-distance indicated that some gene flow occurs between islands. This study is a useful first step toward understanding how secondary seed dispersal operates over broad spatial scales.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-45
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number1
Early online date4 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • Canary Islands
  • diplochory
  • genetic structure
  • microsatellites
  • mtDNA
  • phylogeography

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