Landscape barriers reduce gene flow in an invasive carnivore: geographical and local genetic structure of American mink in Scotland

Andrzej Zalewski, Stuart Brannon Piertney, Hanna Zalewska, Xavier Lambin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Citations (Scopus)


To be effective, management programmes geared towards halting or reversing the spread of invasive species must focus on defined and defensible areas. This requires knowledge of the dispersal of non-native species targeted for control to better understand invasion and recolonisation scenarios. We investigated the genetic structure of invasive American mink (Neovison vison) in Scotland, and incorporated landscape genetic approaches to examine resultant patterns in relation to geographical features that may influence dispersal. Populations of mink sampled from 10 sites in two regions (Argyll and Northeast Scotland) show a distinct genetic structure. First, the majority of pairwise population comparisons yielded F-ST values that were significantly greater than zero. Second, amova revealed that most of the genetic variance was attributable to differences among regions. Assignment tests placed 89 or more of individuals into their sampled region. Bayesian clustering methods grouped samples into two clusters according to their region of origin. Wombling approach identified the Cairngorms Mountains as a major impediment to gene flow between the regions. Mantel pairwise correlations between genetic and geographical distances estimated as least-cost distance assuming a linear increase in the cost of movement with increasing elevation were higher than Euclidean distances or distance along waterways. Spatial autocorrelation analyses revealed stronger spatial structuring for females than for males. These results suggest that gene flow by American mink is restricted by landscape features (mountain ranges) and that eradication attempt should in the first instance break down the connectivity between management units separated by mountains.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1601-1615
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number8
Early online date17 Mar 2009
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2009


  • American mink
  • alien species
  • landscape genetics
  • sex-biased dispersal
  • least-cost distance
  • spatial autocorrelation analysis
  • wolverines gulo-gulo-gulo
  • mustela-vison
  • water voles
  • population-structure
  • arvicola-terrestris
  • Upper Thames
  • Baltic Sea
  • eradication


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