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Patterns of genetic divergence among populations of the common dormouse, Muscardinus avellanarius in the UK.


Quantitative descriptions of population genetic structure allows the delineation of population units and is therefore of primary importance in population management and wildlife conservation. Yet, predicting factors that influence the gene flow patterns in populations particularly at landscape scales remains a major challenge in evolutionary biology. Here we report a population genetic study of the common dormouse, Muscardinus avellanarius, a species that is seriously threatened due to anthropogenic factors, in two regions, Bontuchel (Denbighshire) and Afonwen (Gwynedd), both in Wales, UK. Ten microsatellite loci were used to characterize patterns of genetic diversity of M. avellanarius within both regions. While the population differentiation between both regions is apparent through geographical scale separating them, by using Bayesian clustering analyses, we identified the occurrence of genetic division among populations of M. avellanarius in Bontuchel region, but no significant evidence of differentiation in Afonwen. We found a strong significant isolation-by-distance (IBD) pattern at a fine-scale (less than 1 km) within continuous habitat and between habitat patches in both regions. Overall, analyses suggest that small-scale dispersal associated with the social structure and dispersal tendencies of this species is reflected in the genetic structure of populations. These findings then provide useful baseline data for supporting local management strategies.