Relationship type affects the reliability of dispersal distance estimated using pedigree inferences in partially sampled populations: A case study involving invasive American mink in Scotland

Y. Melero, M. K. Oliver, X. Lambin

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Estimating dispersal - a key parameter for population ecology and management - is notoriously difficult. The use of pedigree assignments, aided by likelihood-based softwares, has become popular to estimate dispersal rate and distance. However, the partial sampling of populations may produce false assignments. Further, it is unknown how the accuracy of assignment is affected by the genealogical relationships of individuals and is reflected by software-derived assignment probabilities. Inspired by a project managing invasive American mink (Neovison vison), we estimated individual dispersal distances using inferred pairwise relationships of culled individuals. Additionally, we simulated scenarios to investigate the accuracy of pairwise inferences. Estimates of dispersal distance varied greatly when derived from different inferred pairwise relationships, with mother-offspring relationship being the shortest (average = 21 km) and the most accurate. Pairs assigned as maternal half-siblings were inaccurate, with 64-97% falsely assigned, implying that estimates for these relationships in the wild population were unreliable. The false assignment rate was unrelated to the software-derived assignment probabilities at high dispersal rates. Assignments were more accurate when the inferred parents were older and immigrants and when dispersal rates between subpopulations were low (1 and 2%). Using 30 instead of 15 loci increased pairwise reliability, but half-sibling assignments were still inaccurate (> 59% falsely assigned). The most reliable approach when using inferred pairwise relationships in polygamous species would be not to use half-sibling relationship types. Our simulation approach provides guidance for the application of pedigree inferences under partial sampling and is applicable to other systems where pedigree assignments are used for ecological inference. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4059-407
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number15
Early online date21 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017

Bibliographical note

YM was funded by a Marie Curie FP7-PEOPLE-2011-IEF 300288-Project Depensation and XL and MO by NERC Grant NE/J01396X/1. We thank the Scottish Mink Initiative, staff,funders and multiple mink volunteers for the continued effort, samples and data; Andrzej Zalewski and Gillian Murray-Dickson for assisting with genotyping samples; Kamil Barton for his help getting started with NOOKIE programming; Stuart Piertney and Joan Pino for their helpful comments on the manuscript; the three anonymous reviewers and the editor Paul Bentzen for their useful comments.

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  • dispersal distance
  • pedigree inference
  • genetic markers
  • simulations
  • polygamous species


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