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Urban Hedgehog Behavioural Responses to Temporary Habitat Disturbance versus Permanent Fragmentation
Open AccessArticle

Unexpected Gene-Flow in Urban Environments: The Example of the European Hedgehog

1
Department of Evolutionary Ecology, Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW), Alfred-Kowalke-Straße 17, 10315 Berlin, Germany
2
Berlin Brandenburg Institute of Advanced Biodiversity Research (BBIB), 14195 Berlin, Germany
3
Department of Biology, Chemistry, Pharmacy, Freie Universität Berlin, Takustrasse 3, 14195 Berlin, Germany
4
Department of Evolutionary Genetics, Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW), Alfred-Kowalke-Straße 17, 10315 Berlin, Germany
5
Department of Ecological Dynamics, Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Alfred-Kowalke-Straße 17, 10315 Berlin, Germany
6
Institute for Biochemistry & Biology, University of Potsdam, 14476 Potsdam-Golm, Germany
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(12), 2315; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10122315
Received: 19 November 2020 / Revised: 2 December 2020 / Accepted: 3 December 2020 / Published: 7 December 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Applied Hedgehog Conservation Research)
An urban environment holds many barriers for mammals with limited mobility such as hedgehogs. These barriers appear often unsurmountable (e.g., rivers, highways, fences) and thus hinder contact between hedgehogs, leading to genetic isolation. In our study we tested whether these barriers affect the hedgehog population of urban Berlin, Germany. As Berlin has many of these barriers, we were expecting a strong genetic differentiation among hedgehog populations. However, when we looked at unrelated individuals, we did not see genetic differentiation among populations. The latter was only detected when we included related individuals too, a ‘family clan’ structure that is referred to as gamodemes. We conclude that the high percentage of greenery in Berlin provides sufficient habitat for hedgehogs to maintain connectivity across the city.
We use the European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus), a mammal with limited mobility, as a model species to study whether the structural matrix of the urban environment has an influence on population genetic structure of such species in the city of Berlin (Germany). Using ten established microsatellite loci we genotyped 143 hedgehogs from numerous sites throughout Berlin. Inclusion of all individuals in the cluster analysis yielded three genetic clusters, likely reflecting spatial associations of kin (larger family groups, known as gamodemes). To examine the potential bias in the cluster analysis caused by closely related individuals, we determined all pairwise relationships and excluded close relatives before repeating the cluster analysis. For this data subset (N = 65) both clustering algorithms applied (Structure, Baps) indicated the presence of a single genetic cluster. These results suggest that the high proportion of green patches in the city of Berlin provides numerous steppingstone habitats potentially linking local subpopulations. Alternatively, translocation of individuals across the city by hedgehog rescue facilities may also explain the existence of only a single cluster. We therefore propose that information about management activities such as releases by animal rescue centres should include location data (as exactly as possible) regarding both the collection and the release site, which can then be used in population genetic studies. View Full-Text
Keywords: urban; hedgehog; genetic cluster; barrier urban; hedgehog; genetic cluster; barrier
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MDPI and ACS Style

Barthel, L.M.F.; Wehner, D.; Schmidt, A.; Berger, A.; Hofer, H.; Fickel, J. Unexpected Gene-Flow in Urban Environments: The Example of the European Hedgehog. Animals 2020, 10, 2315. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10122315

AMA Style

Barthel LMF, Wehner D, Schmidt A, Berger A, Hofer H, Fickel J. Unexpected Gene-Flow in Urban Environments: The Example of the European Hedgehog. Animals. 2020; 10(12):2315. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10122315

Chicago/Turabian Style

Barthel, Leon M.F.; Wehner, Dana; Schmidt, Anke; Berger, Anne; Hofer, Heribert; Fickel, Jörns. 2020. "Unexpected Gene-Flow in Urban Environments: The Example of the European Hedgehog" Animals 10, no. 12: 2315. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10122315

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