Animal dispersal is highly non-random and has important implications for the dynamics of populations in fragmented habitat. We identified interpatch dispersal events from genetic tagging, parentage analyses and assignment tests and modelled the factors associated with apparent emigration and post-dispersal settlement choices by individual male agile antechinus (Antechinus agilis, a marsupial carnivore of south-east Australian forests).
Emigration decisions were best modelled with on data patch isolation and inbreeding risk.
The choice of dispersal destination by males was influenced by inbreeding risk, female abundance, patch size, patch quality and matrix permeability (variation in land cover). Males were less likely to settle in patches without highly unrelated females.
Our findings highlight the importance of individual-level dispersal data for understanding how multiple processes drive non-randomness in dispersal in modified landscapes. Fragmented landscapes present novel environmental, demographic and genetic contexts in which dispersal decisions are made, so the major factors affecting dispersal decisions in fragmented habitat may differ considerably from unfragmented landscapes. We show that the spatial scale of genetic neighbourhoods can be large in fragmented habitat, such that dispersing males can potentially settle in the presence of genetically similar females after moving considerable distances, thereby necessitating both a choice to emigrate and a choice of where to settle to avoid inbreeding.