Urbanization is driving environmental change on a global scale, creating novel environments for wildlife to colonize. Through a combination of stochastic and selective processes, urbanization is also driving evolutionary change. For instance, difficulty in traversing human-modified landscapes may isolate newly established populations from rural sources, while novel selective pressures, such as altered disease risk, toxicant exposure, and light pollution, may further diverge populations through local adaptation. Assessing the evolutionary consequences of urban colonization and the processes underlying them is a principle aim of urban evolutionary ecology. In the present study, we revisited the genetic effects of urbanization on red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) that colonized Zurich, Switzerland. Through use of genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphisms and microsatellite markers linked to the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), we expanded upon a previous neutral microsatellite study to assess population structure, characterize patterns of genetic diversity, and detect outliers associated with urbanization. Our results indicated the presence of one large evolutionary cluster, with substructure evident between geographic sampling areas. In urban foxes, we observed patterns of neutral and functional diversity consistent with founder events and reported increased differentiation between populations separated by natural and anthropogenic barriers. We additionally reported evidence of selection acting on MHC-linked markers and identified outlier loci with putative gene functions related to energy metabolism, behavior, and immunity. We concluded that demographic processes primarily drove patterns of diversity, with outlier tests providing preliminary evidence of possible urban adaptation. This study contributes to our overall understanding of urban colonization ecology and emphasizes the value of combining datasets when examining evolutionary change in an increasingly urban world.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Nature and Landscape Conservation
- contemporary evolution
- genetic drift
- major histocompatibility complex