Gene flow in great bustard populations across the Strait of Gibraltar as elucidated from excremental PCR and mtDNA sequencing

D. Broderick, Y. Idaghdour, A. Korrida, J. Hellmich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent advances in molecular biology have made it possible to use the trace amounts of DNA in faeces to non-invasively sample endangered species for genetic studies. Here we use faeces as a source of DNA and mtDNA sequence data to elucidate the relationship among Spanish and Moroccan populations of great bustards. 834 bp of combined control region and cytochrome-b mtDNA fragments revealed four variable sites that defined seven closely related haplotypes in 54 individuals. Morocco was fixed for a single mtDNA haplotype that occurs at moderate frequency (28%) in Spain. We could not differentiate among the sampled Spanish populations of Cáceres and Andalucía but these combined populations were differentiated from the Moroccan population. Estimates of gene flow (Nm = 0.82) are consistent with extensive observations on the southern Iberian peninsular indicating that few individuals fly across the Strait of Gibraltar. We demonstrate that both this sea barrier and mountain barriers in Spain limit dispersal among adjacent great bustard populations to a similar extent. The Moroccan population is of high ornithological significance as it holds the only population of great bustards in Africa. This population is critically small and genetic and observational data indicate that it is unlikely to be recolonised via immigration from Spain should it be extirpated. In light of the evidence presented here it deserves the maximum level of protection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)793-800
Number of pages8
JournalConservation Genetics
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2003


  • Faeces
  • Gene flow
  • Non-invasive genetics
  • Otis tarda
  • mtDNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics


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