Genetic footprints reveal geographic patterns of expansion in Fennoscandian red foxes

Karin Norén, Mark J. Statham, Erik O. Ågren, Marja Isomursu, Øystein Flagstad, Nina E. Eide, Thomas Bjørneboe G. Berg, Lene Bech-Sanderhoff, Benjamin Sacks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Population expansions of boreal species are among the most substantial ecological consequences of climate change, potentially transforming both structure and processes of northern ecosystems. Despite their importance, little is known about expansion dynamics of boreal species. Red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) are forecasted to become a keystone species in northern Europe, a process stemming from population expansions that began in the 19th century. To identify the relative roles of geographic and demographic factors and the sources of northern European red fox population expansion, we genotyped 21 microsatellite loci in modern and historical (1835-1941) Fennoscandian red foxes. Using Bayesian clustering and Bayesian inference of migration rates, we identified high connectivity and asymmetric migration rates across the region, consistent with source-sink dynamics, whereby more recently colonized sampling regions received immigrants from multiple sources. There were no clear clines in allele frequency or genetic diversity as would be expected from a unidirectional range expansion from south to north. Instead, migration inferences, demographic models and comparison to historical red fox genotypes suggested that the population expansion of the red fox is a consequence of dispersal from multiple sources, as well as in situ demographic growth. Together, these findings provide a rare glimpse into the anatomy of a boreal range expansion and enable informed predictions about future changes in boreal communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3299-3312
Number of pages14
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Climate
  • Demography
  • Landscape
  • Microsatellites
  • Range shift
  • Vulpes vulpes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Science(all)


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