Influences of landscape characteristics and historical barriers on the population genetic structure in the endangered sand-dune subterranean rodent Ctenomys australis
Understanding the processes and patterns of local adaptation and migration involves an exhaustive knowledge of how landscape features and population distances shape the genetic variation at the geographical level. Ctenomys australis is an endangered subterranean rodent characterized by having a restricted geographic range immerse in a highly fragmented sand dune landscape in the Southeast of Buenos Aires province, Argentina. We use 13 microsatellite loci in a total of 194 individuals from 13
... pling sites to assess the dispersal patterns and population structure in the complete geographic range of this endemic species. Our analyses show that populations are highly structured with low rates of gene flow among them. Genetic differentiation among sampling sites was consistent with an isolation by distance pattern, however, an important fraction of the population differentiation was explained by natural barriers such as rivers and streams. Although the individuals were sampled at locations distanced from each other, we also use some landscape genetics approaches to evaluate the effects of landscape configuration on the genetic connectivity among populations. These analyses showed that the sand dune habitat availability (the most suitable habitat for the occupation of the species), was one of the main factors that explained the differentiation patterns of the different sampling sites located on both sides of the Quequén Salado River. Finally, habitat availability was directly associated with the width of the sand dune landscape in the Southeast of Buenos Aires province, finding the greatest genetic differentiation among the populations of the Northeast, where this landscape is narrower.