Dispersion et génétique chez un oiseau marin longévif : l'albatros hurleur : dynamique de population, structure et diversité génétiques, consanguinité

Authors: Milot, Emmanuel
Advisor: Bernatchez, Louis; Weimerskirch, Henri
Abstract: The ecological and evolutionary impact of dispersal and inbreeding may be exacerbated in insular species. Albatrosses, in particular, have an extreme way of life raising several questions in that regard. In this thesis, I address some of these questions. In the introduction (chapter 1), I enounce hypotheses that are specific to the study species, the wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans), in relation to dispersal, population dynamics, and genetics. However, the fortuitous discovery of a very poor genetic diversity in this species led to substantial modifications of the initial objectives and hypotheses of the thesis. Thus, the patterns of genetic diversity in two sister species, the wandering and Amsterdam (D. amsterdamensis) albatrosses, are studied in chapter 2. Simulations support the hypothesis that the two species inherited a poor genetic diversity from their common ancestor, some 0.8 million years ago. Albatrosses thus appear to challenge the widespread view about the negative consequences of genetic depletion on species survival. In chapter 3, the objective was to identify explicitly which model of population dynamics best applies to the wandering albatross. Populations exhibited little genetic differentiation across the species’ range. All genotypes grouped together in a cluster analysis, suggesting that current colonies have derived from one ancestral source that had a low genetic diversity. In contrast, band re-sighting data indicated that about one bird per cohort has dispersed among islands in the past decades. Therefore, low contemporary dispersal rates are not mirrored by genetic data, presumably because populations are not at migration–drift equilibrium. A metapopulation dynamics model involving the recent colonization of several islands seems consistent with the very low levels of both genetic diversity and structure within the wandering albatross. Yet, other factors likely contributed to shape current genetic patterns. The limited genetic diversity and structure raise questions about inbreeding and its effect. Thus, in chapter 4, evidence for inbreeding in the wandering albatross is reviewed. The hypothesis that reproductive success decreases with increasing genetic similarity between mates was also tested using molecular data and pair breeding histories. While the hypothesis was not supported, a lack of resolution from the markers cannot be ruled out given the very poor genetic diversity in albatrosses. Some perspectives about inbreeding-related aspects (e.g. inbreeding avoidance, purging) based on recent literature are also proposed. Overall, this wandering albatross case study leads to several stimulating hypotheses and shows how complex the understanding of inbreeding dynamics in a long-lived species may be. In chapter 5, failing to successfully apply population assignment methods (because of the lack of genetic resolution), data on Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) were used in addition to the albatross dataset to explore the performance of an assignment method routinely used in biological investigations. Results show that critical aspects (error rate estimation, migrant detection) relate to how test assumptions are met by empirical data. They also stress the need to validate the assignment procedure with preliminary simulations. This methodological contribution is to some extent a response to the absence of uniformity in the way these methods are generally applied. To conclude, using empirical evidence on dispersal in wandering albatrosses, I suggest perspectives on the causes and the evolution of dispersal in these birds. This dissertation provides new insights about the significance and implications of genetic monomorphim in natural populations, about dispersal and population dynamics in a longlived seabird, and proposes a vision about the interaction between these factors and life history.
Document Type: Thèse de doctorat
Issue Date: 2009
Open Access Date: 16 April 2018
Permalink: http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11794/21284
Grantor: Université Laval
Collection:Thèses et mémoires

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