Sex-biased gene flow in spectacled eiders (Anatidae): Inferences from molecular markers with contrasting modes of inheritance

Kim T. Scribner, Margaret R. Petersen, Raymond L. Fields, Sandra L. Talbot, John M. Pearce, Ronald K. Chesser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Genetic markers that differ in mode of inheritance and rate of evolution (a sex-linked Z-specific microsatellite locus, five biparentally inherited microsatellite loci, and maternally inherited mitochondrial [mtDNA] sequences) were used to evaluate the degree of spatial genetic structuring at macro- and microgeographic scales, among breeding regions and local nesting populations within each region, respectively, for a migratory sea duck species, the spectacled eider (Somateria fisheri). Disjunct and declining breeding populations coupled with sex-specific differences in seasonal migratory patterns and life history provide a series of hypotheses regarding rates and directionality of gene flow among breeding populations from the Indigirka River Delta, Russia, and the North Slope and Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska. The degree of differentiation in mtDNA haplotype frequency among breeding regions and populations within regions was high (φCT = 0.189, P < 0.01; φSC = 0.059, P < 0.01, respectively). Eleven of 17 mtDNA haplotypes were restricted to a single breeding region. Genetic differences among regions were considerably lower for nuclear DNA loci (sex-linked: φST = 0.001, P > 0.05; biparentally inherited microsatellites: mean θ = 0.001, P > 0.05) than was observed for mtDNA. Using models explicitly designed for uniparental and biparentally inherited genes, estimates of spatial divergence based on nuclear and mtDNA data together with elements of the species' breeding ecology were used to estimate effective population size and degree of male and female gene flow. Differences in the magnitude and spatial patterns of gene correlations for maternally inherited and nuclear genes revealed that females exhibit greater natal philopatry than do males. Estimates of generational female and male rates of gene flow among breeding regions differed markedly (3.67 × 10-4 and 1.28 × 10-2, respectively). Effective population size for mtDNA was estimated to be at least three times lower than that for biparental genes (30,671 and 101,528, respectively). Large disparities in population sizes among breeding areas greatly reduces the proportion of total genetic variance captured by dispersal, which may accelerate rates of inbreeding (i.e., promote higher coancestries) within populations due to nonrandom pairing of males with females from the same breeding population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2105-2115
Number of pages11
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2001


  • Effective population size
  • Gene flow
  • Microsatellites
  • Mitochondrial DNA
  • Phylogeography
  • Spatial variation
  • Waterfowl


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