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Population structure and dispersal

DNA extracted from otter muscle and spraint is used to identify the genetic structure of the UK otter population.

Current research

Dynamics of demographic expansion and population structure.

Nia Thomas, PhD Student (2016-present) funded through the NERC GW4+ DTP and Somerset Otter Group.

Nia will examine how otters continue to recolonise the UK. Furthermore, using advances in molecular techniques she aims to gain new  information on home range and (potentially sex-biased) dispersal, and to examine the permeability of landscape barriers to movement.

Supervisors: Dr Elizabeth Chadwick and Prof Robbie McDonald.

Completed research

Genetic structure of the UK otter population.

Completed in 2009 Dr Geoff Hobbs' PhD research identified four distinct regional populations and a total of 11 smaller sub-groups. Further research is focusing on how landscape limits genetic mixing.

Genetic diversity and structure was also assessed using mitochondrial DNA. This work, by Dr Dave Stanton, showed that otter populations in the UK have a higher haplotype diversity than that found for populations in Europe. Western UK populations have a particularly high level of genetic distinctiveness.

The work was supervised by Prof Mike Bruford, Dr Fred Slater and Dr Elizabeth Chadwick.

Published results