BACKGROUND : Female lions generally do not disperse far beyond their natal range, while males can disperse
distances of over 200 km. However, in bush-like ecosystems dispersal distances less than 25 km are reported.
Here, we investigate dispersal in lions sampled from the northern and southern extremes of Kruger National
Park, a bush-like ecosystem in South Africa where bovine tuberculosis prevalence ranges from low to high
across a north-south gradient.
RESULTS : A total of 109 individuals sampled from 1998 to 2004 were typed using 11 microsatellite markers,
and mitochondrial RS-3 gene sequences were generated for 28 of these individuals. Considerable north-south
genetic differentiation was observed in both datasets. Dispersal was male-biased and generally further than
25 km, with long-distance male gene flow (75–200 km, detected for two individuals) confirming that male
lions can travel large distances, even in bush-like ecosystems. In contrast, females generally did not disperse
further than 20 km, with two distinctive RS-3 gene clusters for northern and southern females indicating no
or rare long-distance female dispersal. However, dispersal rate for the predominantly non-territorial females
from southern Kruger (fraction dispersers ≥0.68) was higher than previously reported. Of relevance was the
below-average body condition of dispersers and their low presence in prides, suggesting low fitness.
CONCLUSIONS : Large genetic differences between the two sampling localities, and low relatedness among
males and high dispersal rates among females in the south, suggestive of unstable territory structure and
high pride turnover, have potential implications for spread of diseases and the management of the Kruger
Additional file 1: Background information on the analysed lions.
Additional file 2: Comma delimited sheet (*.csv) with raw data per
individual, including data on microsatellite genotype, mtDNA haplotype
number, sampling date, GPS coordinates, age, sex, BCS, FIV status, BTB
status, socialisation, territory size, cluster assignment according to
Additional file 3: Map of sampling localities.
Additional file 4: Table with some characteristics of the northern and
Additional file 5: No discernible effect of lion age and sampling date
on isolation-by-distance analyses.
Additional file 6: Figure showing absence of isolation-by-distance among males ≥3 year old.
Additional file 7: Figure showing the number of microsatellite clusters based on the software Structure using the method of Evanno et al... 2005.
Additional file 8: Figure showing the fraction of candidate residents, candidate dispersers and individuals with mixed ancestry per locality.
Additional file 9: Figure showing the cumulative frequency distribution of the proportion of DNA per individual assigned to the local microsatellite cluster by the software Structure.
Additional file 10: Figure showing the relationship between body condition and age per locality (logistic regression).