Generalist dispersal and gene flow of an endangered keystone specialist (Dipodomys ingens)

Nathan B. Alexander, Mark J. Statham, Benjamin N. Sacks, William T. Bean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Movement ecology and dispersal capabilities inherently drive genetic structure across landscapes. Through understanding dispersal and gene flow of giant kangaroo rats (Dipodomys ingens), conservation efforts can be focused, and we can further understand how genetic structure persists in this highly endemic small mammal. Here, we genetically identify parent-offspring and sibship relationships among 239 giant kangaroo rats using 15 microsatellites in the northern part of the species range and describe the individual genetic-spatial variation using a Moran eigenvector map (MEM). We further employ two landscape genetic analyses (isolation by resistance [IBR] and least cost paths [LCPs]) and two individual-based genetic metrics (Dps and a codominant marker distance from GenAlEx) to determine landscape factors (precipitation, slope, vegetation community, and roads) that influence gene flow. We found 19 pairs of related individuals, of which 18 were less than 250 m apart, but one sibling pair was 5.52 km apart, suggesting greater dispersal capabilities than previously noted. We found hierarchal spatial genetic structure using a MEM, with 3-4 genetically similar regions and two genetically similar subregions. Finally, we found low correlative strength between landscape features and gene flow. IBR consistently outperformed LCPs, and there was evidence that regions with 250-350 mm of precipitation and slope ≤ 5° promoted connectivity. We recommend that managers focus on habitat protection rather than corridor maintenance, with the caveat that anthropogenic factors were minimally considered in this study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1533-1545
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Mammalogy
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 22 2019


  • connectivity
  • Dipodomys ingens
  • dispersal
  • gene flow
  • giant kangaroo rat
  • isolation by resistance
  • kinship
  • least cost path

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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