Dispersal and genetic structure in a tropical small mammal, the Bornean tree shrew (Tupaia longipes), in a fragmented landscape along the Kinabatangan River, Sabah, Malaysia
BACKGROUND:Constraints in migratory capabilities, such as the disruption of gene flow and genetic connectivity caused by habitat fragmentation, are known to affect genetic diversity and the long-term persistence of populations. Although negative population trends due to ongoing forest loss are widespread, the consequence of habitat fragmentation on genetic diversity, gene flow and genetic structure has rarely been investigated in Bornean small mammals. To fill this gap in knowledge, we used nuclear and mitochondrial DNA markers to assess genetic diversity, gene flow and the genetic structure in the Bornean tree shrew, Tupaia longipes, that inhabits forest fragments of the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, Sabah. Furthermore, we used these markers to assess dispersal regimes in male and female T. longipes. RESULTS:In addition to the Kinabatangan River, a known barrier for dispersal in tree shrews, the heterogeneous landscape along the riverbanks affected the genetic structure in this species. Specifically, while in larger connected forest fragments along the northern riverbank genetic connectivity was relatively undisturbed, patterns of genetic differentiation and the distribution of mitochondrial haplotypes in a local scale indicated reduced migration on the strongly fragmented southern riverside. Especially, oil palm plantations seem to negatively affect dispersal in T. longipes. Clear sex-biased dispersal was not detected based on relatedness, assignment tests, and haplotype diversity. CONCLUSION:This study revealed the importance of landscape connectivity to maintain migration and gene flow between fragmented populations, and to ensure the long-term persistence of species in anthropogenically disturbed landscapes.