Geographic patterns of natal dispersal in barn swallowsHirundo rusticafrom Denmark and Spain

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Dispersal is an important factor that determines the degree of gene flow and, hence, the degree of differentiation among populations. Using two long-term datasets on natal philopatry and short-distance dispersal in barn swallows Hirundo rustica from Denmark and Spain, we evaluated the fitness costs and benefits and test a number of predictions about the functional significance of dispersal. The proportion of philopatric individuals was more than six times larger in Spain than in Denmark, with a higher rate of philopatry in males than in females. Dispersal propensity decreased in both populations during the course of the study. Males from the more philopatric Spanish population lived longer when philopatric rather than dispersing while that was not the case for either sex of the less philopatric Danish population. There were large differences in dispersal propensity among cohorts and breeding sites, suggesting that sites differed in their suitability as sites for immigrants. We found no evidence consistent with the mate competition hypothesis suggesting that males in better condition or with larger condition-dependent secondary sexual characters were more likely to be philopatric. These findings suggest that there is a high degree of intraspecific variation in dispersal propensity between populations, probably relating to local differences in costs and benefits of philopatry and dispersal.

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