The study finds that most of the Eastern Seaboard pigeons are all mixed up in one community, they are citizens of an intact avian mega-city, without the New England pigeons, which appear to have their own VIP state. Elizabeth Carlen, a biologist at Fordham University took blood samples from pigeons during a string of journeys across the country. She found that birds from Virginia to southern Connecticut show genetic signs of interbreeding. In ‘Widespread genetic connectivity of feral pigeons across the Northeastern megacity’ she reported that another separate, distinct pigeon supercity begins in Providence, R.I., and continues to Boston.
Study Name:Widespread genetic connectivity of feral pigeons across the Northeastern megacity
Urbanization may restrict, facilitate, or have no effect on gene flow, depending on the organism and extent of urbanization. In human commensals, with high dispersal ability, urbanization can facilitate gene flow by providing continuous suitable habitat across a wide range. Additionally, suburban or rural areas with lower human population density may act as a barrier to gene flow for these human commensals. Spatial population genetic approaches provide a means to understand genetic connectivity across geographically expansive areas that encompass multiple metropolitan areas. Here, we examined the spatial genetic patterns of feral pigeons (Columba livia ) living in cities in the eastern United States. We focused our sampling on the Northeastern megacity, which is a region covering six large cities (Boston, Providence, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, DC). We performed ddRAD‐Seqon 473 samples, recovered 35,200 SNPs, and then used multiple evolutionary clustering analyses to investigate population structuring. These analyses revealed that pigeons formed two genetic clusters—a northern cluster containing samples from Boston and Providence and a southern cluster containing all other samples. This substructuring is possibly due to reduced urbanization across coastal Connecticut that separates Boston and Providence from New York and mid‐Atlantic cities. We found that pairs of pigeons within 25 km are highly related (Mantel r = 0.217, p = .001) and that beyond 50 km, pigeons are no more related than they would be at random. Our analysis detected higher‐than‐expected gene flow under an isolation by distance model within each city. We conclude that the extreme urbanization characteristic of the Northeastern megacity is likely facilitating gene flow in feral pigeons.