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Salty divides: geometric morphometrics reveal Danish straits as barriers to otter migration

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The Eurasian otter (Lutra lutra) suffered a dramatic population decline in southern Scandinavia in the twentieth century and was subsequently presumed extinct in the Danish archipelago. However, in the 1990s, evidence of a relict population on the island of Zealand was reported. The vulnerability of this small population may be exacerbated by seawater barriers preventing migration to and from the island. To assess whether the Danish Straits have and will present a barrier to future otter migration, we used geometric morphometrics to investigate population structuring and assess the level of differentiation of otters across southern Scandinavia. Utilizing museum collections, we analysed 137 otter skulls from Zealand, Jutland, and southern Sweden. Statistical analyses showed highly significant shape differences between all three localities, likely reflecting migration between the three areas has historically been low. High jack-knife reclassification success rates support divergence among the areas, and directionalities of the vectors describing regional shape differences indicate that differences do not reflect isolation-by-distance.

TidsskriftMammalian Biology
Sider (fra-til)1109-1114
StatusUdgivet - dec. 2021

Bibliografisk note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank the Section for Evolutionary Genomics at GLOBE Institute; University of Copenhagen for a research grant that enabled CDC travel to Arkivcentrum Syd in Lund and the Swedish Museum of Natural History to collect data from Swedish otters, and thank Daniela Kalthoff and Jonas Ekström for help at their institutions. We also thank Daniel Klingberg Johansson at the Natural History Museum of Denmark for help with locating material. Two anonymous reviewers provided constructive feedback, which helped to improve the original manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Säugetierkunde.


  • Population structure, Mustelidae, management, relict populations

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