Conservation Genetics

, 6:665 | Cite as

Does time since colonization influence isolation by distance? A meta-analysis

  • E. Crispo
  • A. P. Hendry


Isolation by distance (IBD) is a phenomenon characterized by increasing genetic divergence and decreasing gene flow with increasing geographic distance. IBD is often used in conservation biology to infer the extent of gene flow among populations. An assumption inherent to this approach is equilibrium between genetic drift and gene flow, which may take thousands of years to achieve. This implies that empirical IBD studies of recently colonized areas, such as postglacial systems, should be concerned with whether or not equilibrium has been reached. Short of equilibrium, IBD should increase with the length of time since a geographical area was colonized. We test the prediction that IBD increases with increasing time since colonization through a meta-analysis based on a diverse range of empirical systems. P and r 2 values from published IBD studies were analyzed with respect to time since colonization (in generations and years), taking into account variation in sample sizes, molecular markers, divergence metrics (genetic distance, F st, Nm), and dispersal patterns (one or two dimensional). Overall, we found weak evidence for associations between time since colonization and IBD. Sample sizes, molecular markers, divergence metrics, and dispersal patterns did not appreciably influence IBD. We propose that the expected relationship between IBD and time since colonization is obscured by the influence of other factors, such as dispersal ability, geographical barriers, and proximity to glacial refugia. The possible effects of time since colonization should continue to be evaluated in empirical studies, but other potential factors should also be thoroughly explored.


dispersal gene flow glaciation migration equilibrium 



We thank J. Correa for providing assistance with the statistics and K. Räsänen, S. A. Pavey, McGill Department of Biology graduate student discussion group members, and anonymous reviewers for providing comments. We also thank all individuals who provided information on generation lengths (see Appendix A). Financial support was provided by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Discovery Grant to A. P. Hendry.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Redpath Museum and Department of BiologyMcGill UniversityMontréalCanada

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