Fine-scale genetic structure reflects limited and coordinated dispersal in the colonial monk parakeet, Myiopsitta monachus.


Dawson Pell FSE(1), Senar JC(2), Franks DW(3), Hatchwell BJ(1).
Author information:
(1)Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK.
(2)Museu de Ciències Naturals de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.
(3)Department of Biology and Department of Computer Science, The University of York, York, UK.


The genetic structure of animal populations has considerable behavioural, ecological and evolutionary implications and may arise from various demographic traits. Here, we use observational field data and molecular genetics to determine the genetic structure of an invasive population of monk parakeets, Myiopsitta monachus, at a range of spatial scales, and investigate the demographic processes that generate the observed structure. Monk parakeets construct large nests that can house several pairs occupying separate chambers; these nests are often aggregated within nesting trees. We determined patterns of relatedness within compound nests, within nesting trees and between trees. Spatial autocorrelation analyses of pairwise genetic relatedness revealed fine-scale genetic structure with relatives of both sexes spatially clustered within, but not beyond, nesting trees. In addition, males were more related to males sharing their compound nests than to other males occupying the same nesting tree. By contrast, males and females within compound nests were not significantly more closely related than elsewhere in the same tree, and we found no evidence for inbreeding. Adults showed high breeding site fidelity between years despite considerable disturbance of nest sites. Natal dispersal was female-biased, but dispersal distances were relatively short with some natal philopatry observed in both sexes. Sibling coalitions, typically of males, were observed amongst both philopatric and dispersing birds. Our results show significant clustering of kin within compound nests and nesting trees resulting from limited and coordinated natal dispersal, with subsequent breeding site fidelity. The resulting genetic structure has implications for social behaviour in this unusual parrot species.