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Journal Article

Human activities and landscape features interact to closely define the distribution and dispersal of an urban commensal

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Tang, Q., Low, G. W., Lim, J. Y., Gwee, C. Y., & Rheindt, F. E. (2018). Human activities and landscape features interact to closely define the distribution and dispersal of an urban commensal. Evolutionary Applications, 11(9), 1598-1608. doi:10.1111/eva.12650.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000D-8ECE-C
Abstract The rock pigeon, Columba livia, is a cosmopolitan human commensal, domesticated thousands of years ago. However, the human-mediated factors governing its distribution and dispersal are not well understood. In this study, we performed (a) hierarchical distance sampling on ~400 island-wide point transects, (b) a population genomic inquiry based on ~7,000 SNPs from almost 150 individuals, and (c) landscape genomic analyses on the basis of extensive ecological and socio-economic databases to characterize the distribution and dispersal patterns of rock pigeons across Singapore. Our distance sampling results indicated that the volume of intentional “mercy feeding” and availability of high-rise buildings are the most reliable predictors of high pigeon densities in Singapore. Genomic analyses demonstrated that rock pigeons in Singapore form a single population possibly derived from rapid expansion from a genetically homogenous group of founder individuals. In specific, rock pigeons in Singapore lack sex-biased dispersal and are clustered with a genetic patch size of ~3 km. Landscape genomic analyses of great precision pointed to the presence of dense trees as agents of resistance to dispersal, whereas a high road density reduces this resistance. By pinpointing a range of ecological and socio-economic variables determining the distribution and dispersal of pigeons, our study provides urban planners with the tools for optimal management of this human commensal, such as a curtailment of the practice of mercy feeding and modifications to the urban landscape to reduce pigeon density and to lower the likelihood of repopulation by dispersal.