Genetic structure of recently fragmented suburban populations of European stag beetle

Karen Cox*, Niall McKeown, An Vanden Broeck, An Van Breusegem, Roger Cammaerts, Arno Thomaes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (SciVal)
61 Downloads (Pure)


Habitat loss and fragmentation due to urbanization can negatively affect metapopulation persistence when gene flow among populations is reduced and population sizes decrease. Inference of patterns and processes of population connectivity derived from spatial genetic analysis has proven invaluable for conservation and management. However, a more complete account of population dynamics may be obtained by combining spatial and temporal sampling. We, therefore, performed a genetic study on European stag beetle (Lucanus cervus L.) populations in a suburban context using samples collected in three locations and during the period 2002–2016. The sampling area has seen recent landscape changes which resulted in population declines. Through the use of a suite of FST, clustering analysis, individual assignment, and relatedness analysis, we assessed fine scale spatiotemporal genetic variation within and among habitat patches using 283 individuals successfully genotyped at 17 microsatellites. Our findings suggested the three locations to hold demographically independent populations, at least over time scales of relevance to conservation, though with higher levels of gene flow in the past. Contrary to expectation from tagging studies, dispersal appeared to be mainly female-biased. Although the life cycle of stag beetle suggests its generations to be discrete, no clear temporal structure was identified, which could be attributed to the varying duration of larval development. Since population bottlenecks were detected and estimates of effective number of breeders were low, conservation actions are eminent which should include the establishment of suitable dead wood for oviposition on both local and regional scales to increase (re)colonization success and connectivity among current populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12290-12306
Number of pages17
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number21
Early online date02 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2020


  • bottleneck
  • connectivity
  • land use change
  • Lucanus cervus
  • sex-biased dispersal
  • suburban populations


Dive into the research topics of 'Genetic structure of recently fragmented suburban populations of European stag beetle'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this