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A new approach to study dispersal: immigration of novel alleles reveals female-biased dispersal in great reed warblers

  • Bengt Hansson
  • Staffan Bensch
  • Dennis Hasselquist
Publishing year: 2003
Language: English
Pages: 631-637
Publication/Series: Molecular Ecology
Volume: 12
Issue: 3
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

Abstract english

We use the assignment technique and a new approach, the 'novel allele technique', to detect sex-biased dispersal in great reed warblers Acrocephalus arundinaceus . The data set consisted of immigrants and philopatric birds in a semi-isolated population in Sweden scored at 21 microsatellite loci. Fourteen cohorts were represented of which the four earliest were used to define a reference population. Female immigrants had lower assignment probability than males (i.e. were less likely to have been sampled in the reference population), and carried the majority of 'novel alleles' (i.e. alleles observed in the population for the first time). The difference in number of novel alleles between sexes was caused by a strong over-representation of females among the few individuals that carried several novel alleles, and there was a tendency for a corresponding female bias among individuals with low assignment probabilities. Immigrant males had similar or lower reproductive success than females. These results lead us to conclude that important interregional gene flow in great reed warblers depends on relatively few dispersing females, and that the novel allele technique may be a useful complement to the assignment technique when evaluating dispersal patterns from temporally structured data.


  • Biological Sciences


  • Long-term study of great reed warblers
  • Molecular Ecology and Evolution Lab
  • ISSN: 0962-1083
Dennis Hasselquist
E-mail: dennis [dot] hasselquist [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se



+46 46 222 37 08



Research group


Doctoral students and postdocs

Research fellows


Jacob Roved

PhD Students, main supervisor

PhD Students, assistant supervisor


Interview about my research in the Swedish podcast "Forskarn & jag"