The impact of mating systems and dispersal on fine-scale genetic structure at maternally, paternally and biparentally inherited markers

Robyn E. Shaw, Sam C. Banks, Rod Peakall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


For decades, studies have focused on how dispersal and mating systems influence genetic structure across populations or social groups. However, we still lack a thorough understanding of how these processes and their interaction shape spatial genetic patterns over a finer scale (tens—hundreds of metres). Using uniparentally inherited markers may help answer these questions, yet their potential has not been fully explored. Here, we use individual-level simulations to investigate the effects of dispersal and mating system on fine-scale genetic structure at autosomal, mitochondrial and Y chromosome markers. Using genetic spatial autocorrelation analysis, we found that dispersal was the major driver of fine-scale genetic structure across maternally, paternally and biparentally inherited markers. However, when dispersal was restricted (mean distance = 100 m), variation in mating behaviour created strong differences in the comparative level of structure detected at maternally and paternally inherited markers. Promiscuity reduced spatial genetic structure at Y chromosome loci (relative to monogamy), whereas structure increased under polygyny. In contrast, mitochondrial and autosomal markers were robust to differences in the specific mating system, although genetic structure increased across all markers when reproductive success was skewed towards fewer individuals. Comparing males and females at Y chromosome vs. mitochondrial markers, respectively, revealed that some mating systems can generate similar patterns to those expected under sex-biased dispersal. This demonstrates the need for caution when inferring ecological and behavioural processes from genetic results. Comparing patterns between the sexes, across a range of marker types, may help us tease apart the processes shaping fine-scale genetic structure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-82
Number of pages17
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


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