Genetic consequences of sequential founder events by an island-colonizing bird
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The importance of founder events in promoting evolutionary changes on islands has been a subject of long-running controversy. Resolution of this debate has been hindered by a lack of empirical evidence from naturally founded island populations. Here we undertake a genetic analysis of a series of historically documented, natural colonization events by the silvereye species-complex (Zosterops lateralis), a group used to illustrate the process of island colonization in the original founder effect model. Our results indicate that single founder events do not affect levels of heterozygosity or allelic diversity, nor do they result in immediate genetic differentiation between populations. Instead, four to five successive founder events are required before indices of diversity and divergence approach that seen in evolutionarily old forms. A Bayesian analysis based on computer simulation allows inferences to be made on the number of effective founders and indicates that founder effects are weak because island populations are established from relatively large flocks. Indeed, statistical support for a founder event model was not significantly higher than for a gradual-drift model for all recently colonized islands. Taken together, these results suggest that single colonization events in this species complex are rarely accompanied by severe founder effects, and multiple founder events and/or long-term genetic drift have been of greater consequence for neutral genetic diversity.
Proceedings of the National Academy Sciences USA
Biogeography and Phylogeography