Variable extent of hybridization between invasive sika (Cervus nippon) and native red deer (C-elaphus) in a small geographical area

Helen V. Senn, Josephine M. Pemberton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Instances of hybridization between endemic and alien species pose a threat to species integrity but also provide us with an opportunity to study the dynamics of gene flow between two species as they first meet. Here, we used variation at 22 highly differentiated microsatellite loci and one mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) marker in a sample of 735 individuals, to investigate the genetic consequences of an introduction of Japanese sika deer (Cervus nippon) for native red deer (C. elaphus) on the Kintyre Peninsula in Scotland. We investigated population structure, estimated null-allele frequency and assigned individual hybrid scores using a Bayesian clustering algorithm implemented in structure 2.2. The dataset clearly divided into two clusters and generally, introgression into red and sika was low. However at one site, West Loch Awe, 43% of individuals were hybrids. MtDNA introgression indicated that hybridization was occurring between red-deer hinds and sika-deer stags. We argue that the pattern of differential introgression across the study area is primarily due to the rarity of hybridization events between the two species and the limited time the two species have been in contact (< 120 years). This contrasts with the causes of classic mosaic hybrid zones (selection induced by habitat variability). Currently, it seems possible that, in time, the level of hybridization found at West Loch Awe could also be found across the whole of the peninsula.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)862-876
Number of pages15
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number5
Early online date20 Jan 2009
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2009


  • Cervus elaphus
  • Cervus nippon
  • hybridization
  • introgression
  • invasive species


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