Deakin University
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Simulated Disperser Analysis: determining the number of loci required to genetically identify dispersers

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journal contribution
posted on 2018-01-01, 00:00 authored by Adam CardiliniAdam Cardilini, Craig ShermanCraig Sherman, W B Sherwin, Lee Rollins
Empirical genetic datasets used for estimating contemporary dispersal in wild populations and to correctly identify dispersers are rarely tested to determine if they are capable of providing accurate results. Here we test whether a genetic dataset provides sufficient information to accurately identify first-generation dispersers. Using microsatellite data from three wild populations of common starlings (Sturnus vulgaris), we artificially simulated dispersal of a subset of individuals; we term this 'Simulated Disperser Analysis'. We then ran analyses for diminishing numbers of loci, to assess at which point simulated dispersers could no longer be correctly identified. Not surprisingly, the correct identification of dispersers varied significantly depending on the individual chosen to 'disperse', the number of loci used, whether loci had high or low Polymorphic Information Content and the location to which the dispersers were moved. A review of the literature revealed that studies that have implemented first-generation migrant detection to date have used on average 10 microsatellite loci. Our results suggest at least 27 loci are required to accurately identify dispersers in the study system evaluated here. We suggest that future studies use the approach we describe to determine the appropriate number of markers needed to accurately identify dispersers in their study system; the unique nature of natural systems means that the number of markers required for each study system will vary. Future studies can use Simulated Disperser Analysis on pilot data to test marker panels for robustness to contemporary dispersal identification, providing a powerful tool in the efficient and accurate design of studies using genetic data to estimate dispersal.






Article number



1 - 18


PeerJ Inc.


Corte Madera, Calif.





Publication classification

C Journal article; C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2018, Cardilini et al.