Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Inferring the demographic history of European Ficedula flycatcher populations

Niclas Backström12*, Glenn-Peter Sætre3 and Hans Ellegren1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Evolutionary Biology, Evolutionary Biology Centre (EBC), Uppsala University, Norbyvägen 18D, Uppsala, SE-752 36, Sweden

2 Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology (OEB), Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ), Harvard University, 26 Oxford street, Cambridge, MA, 02138, USA

3 Center for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biology, University of Oslo, P. O. Box 1066 Blindern, Oslo, N-0316, Norway

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2013, 13:2  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-13-2

Published: 2 January 2013



Inference of population and species histories and population stratification using genetic data is important for discriminating between different speciation scenarios and for correct interpretation of genome scans for signs of adaptive evolution and trait association. Here we use data from 24 intronic loci re-sequenced in population samples of two closely related species, the pied flycatcher and the collared flycatcher.


We applied Isolation-Migration models, assignment analyses and estimated the genetic differentiation and diversity between species and between populations within species. The data indicate a divergence time between the species of <1 million years, significantly shorter than previous estimates using mtDNA, point to a scenario with unidirectional gene-flow from the pied flycatcher into the collared flycatcher and imply that barriers to hybridisation are still permeable in a recently established hybrid zone. Furthermore, we detect significant population stratification, predominantly between the Spanish population and other pied flycatcher populations.


Our results provide further evidence for a divergence process where different genomic regions may be at different stages of speciation. We also conclude that forthcoming analyses of genotype-phenotype relations in these ecological model species should be designed to take population stratification into account.

Ficedula flycatchers; Demography; Differentiation; Gene-flow