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See detailWhen morphometrics meets genetics: the case of the hazel dormouse, Muscardinus avellanarius
Mouton, Alice ULg; Renaud, Sabrina; Michaux, Johan ULg

Conference (2014, September 19)

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See detailGenetic structure of fragmented southern populations of African Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer caffer)
Smitz, Nathalie ULg; Cornelis, Daniel; Chardonnet, Philippe et al

in BMC Evolutionary Biology (2014), 14

Background African wildlife experienced a reduction in population size and geographical distribution over the last millennium, particularly since the 19th century as a result of human demographic ... [more ▼]

Background African wildlife experienced a reduction in population size and geographical distribution over the last millennium, particularly since the 19th century as a result of human demographic expansion, wildlife overexploitation, habitat degradation and cattle-borne diseases. In many areas, ungulate populations are now largely confined within a network of loosely connected protected areas. These metapopulations face gene flow restriction and run the risk of genetic diversity erosion. In this context, we assessed the “genetic health” of free ranging southern African Cape buffalo populations (S.c. caffer) and investigated the origins of their current genetic structure. The analyses were based on 264 samples from 6 southern African countries that were genotyped for 14 autosomal and 3 Y-chromosomal microsatellites. Results The analyses differentiated three significant genetic clusters, hereafter referred to as Northern (N), Central (C) and Southern (S) clusters. The results suggest that splitting of the N and C clusters occurred around 6000 to 8400 years ago. Both N and C clusters displayed high genetic diversity (mean allelic richness (Ar) of 7.217, average genetic diversity over loci of 0.594, mean private alleles (Pa) of 11), low differentiation, and an absence of an inbreeding depression signal (mean FIS = 0.037). The third (S) cluster, a tiny population enclosed within a small isolated protected area, likely originated from a more recent isolation and experienced genetic drift (FIS = 0.062, mean Ar = 6.160, Pa = 2). This study also highlighted the impact of translocations between clusters on the genetic structure of several African buffalo populations. Lower differentiation estimates were observed between C and N sampling localities that experienced translocation over the last century. Conclusions We showed that the current genetic structure of southern African Cape buffalo populations results from both ancient and recent processes. The splitting time of N and C clusters suggests that the current pattern results from human-induced factors and/or from the aridification process that occurred during the Holocene period. The more recent S cluster genetic drift probably results of processes that occurred over the last centuries (habitat fragmentation, diseases). Management practices of African buffalo populations should consider the micro-evolutionary changes highlighted in the present study. [less ▲]

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See detailNegative purifying selection drives prion and doppel protein evolution
Tsangaras, K.; Kolokotronis, S.-O.; Ulrich, R. G. et al

in Journal of Molecular Evolution (2014), 79(1-2), 12-20

The prion protein (PrP) when misfolded into the pathogenic conformer PrPSc is the major causative agent of several lethal transmissible spongiform encephalopathies in mammals. Studies of evolutionary ... [more ▼]

The prion protein (PrP) when misfolded into the pathogenic conformer PrPSc is the major causative agent of several lethal transmissible spongiform encephalopathies in mammals. Studies of evolutionary pressure on the corresponding gene using different datasets have yielded conflicting results. In addition, putative PrP or PrP interacting partners with strong similarity to PrP such as the doppel protein have not been examined to determine if the same evolutionary mechanisms apply to prion paralogs or if there are coselected sites that might indicate how and where the proteins interact. We examined several taxonomic groups that contain model organisms of prion diseases focusing on primates, bovids, and an expanded dataset of rodents for selection pressure on the prion gene (PRNP) and doppel gene (PRND) individually and for coevolving sites within. Overall, the results clearly indicate that both proteins are under strong selective constraints with relaxed selection on amino acid residues connecting α-helices 1 and 2. © 2014 Springer Science+Business Media New York. [less ▲]

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See detailNuclear and mitochondrial genetic structure in the Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) - implications for future reintroductions
Senn, H.; Ogden, R.; Frosch, C. et al

in Evolutionary Applications (2014), 7(6), 645-662

Many reintroduction projects for conservation fail, and there are a large number of factors that may contribute to failure. Genetic analysis can be used to help stack the odds of a reintroduction in ... [more ▼]

Many reintroduction projects for conservation fail, and there are a large number of factors that may contribute to failure. Genetic analysis can be used to help stack the odds of a reintroduction in favour of success, by conducting assessment of source populations to evaluate the possibility of inbreeding and outbreeding depression and by conducting postrelease monitoring. In this study, we use a panel of 306 SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) markers and 487-489 base pairs of mitochondrial DNA control region sequence data to examine 321 individuals from possible source populations of the Eurasian beaver for a reintroduction to Scotland. We use this information to reassess the phylogenetic history of the Eurasian beavers, to examine the genetic legacy of past reintroductions on the Eurasian landmass and to assess the future power of the genetic markers to conduct ongoing monitoring via parentage analysis and individual identification. We demonstrate the capacity of medium density genetic data (hundreds of SNPs) to provide information suitable for applied conservation and discuss the difficulty of balancing the need for high genetic diversity against phylogenetic best fit when choosing source population(s) for reintroduction. © 2014 The Authors. Evolutionary Applications published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. [less ▲]

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See detailThe genetic legacy of multiple beaver reintroductions in central Europe
Frosch, C.; Kraus, R. H. S.; Angst, C. et al

in PLoS ONE (2014), 9(5),

The comeback of the Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) throughout western and central Europe is considered a major conservation success. Traditionally, several subspecies are recognised by morphology and ... [more ▼]

The comeback of the Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) throughout western and central Europe is considered a major conservation success. Traditionally, several subspecies are recognised by morphology and mitochondrial haplotype, each linked to a relict population. During various reintroduction programs in the 20th century, beavers from multiple source localities were released and now form viable populations. These programs differed in their reintroduction strategies, i.e., using pure subspecies vs. mixed source populations. This inhomogeneity in management actions generated ongoing debates regarding the origin of present beaver populations and appropriate management plans for the future. By sequencing of the mitochondrial control region and microsatellite genotyping of 235 beaver individuals from five selected regions in Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Belgium we show that beavers from at least four source origins currently form admixed, genetically diverse populations that spread across the study region. While regional occurrences of invasive North American beavers (n = 20) were found, all but one C. fiber bore the mitochondrial haplotype of the autochthonous western Evolutionary Significant Unit (ESU). Considering this, as well as the viability of admixed populations and the fact that the fusion of different lineages is already progressing in all studied regions, we argue that admixture between different beaver source populations should be generally accepted. © 2014 Frosch et al. [less ▲]

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See detailHybridization capture using short PCR products enriches small genomes by capturing flanking sequences (CapFlank)
Tsangaras, K.; Wales, N.; Sicheritz-Pontén, T. et al

in PLoS ONE (2014), 9(10),

Solution hybridization capture methods utilize biotinylated oligonucleotides as baits to enrich homologous sequences from next generation sequencing (NGS) libraries. Coupled with NGS, the method generates ... [more ▼]

Solution hybridization capture methods utilize biotinylated oligonucleotides as baits to enrich homologous sequences from next generation sequencing (NGS) libraries. Coupled with NGS, the method generates kilo to gigabases of high confidence consensus targeted sequence. However, in many experiments, a non-negligible fraction of the resulting sequence reads are not homologous to the bait. We demonstrate that during capture, the bait-hybridized library molecules add additional flanking library sequences iteratively, such that baits limited to targeting relatively short regions (e.g. few hundred nucleotides) can result in enrichment across entire mitochondrial and bacterial genomes. Our findings suggest that some of the off-target sequences derived in capture experiments are non-randomly enriched, and that CapFlank will facilitate targeted enrichment of large contiguous sequences with minimal prior target sequence information. [less ▲]

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See detailDiet analysis of Leopoldamys neilli, a cave-dwelling rodent in Southeast Asia, using Next-Generation Sequencing from feces
Latinne, Alice ULg; Galan, Maxime; Waengsothorn, Surachit et al

in Journal of Cave and Karst Studies (2014), 76(2), 139-145

Leopoldamys neilli is a Murinae rodent endemic to limestone karst of Thailand and the Lao PDR, but its ecology and the reasons of its endemism to karst are still totally unknown. The aim of this pilot ... [more ▼]

Leopoldamys neilli is a Murinae rodent endemic to limestone karst of Thailand and the Lao PDR, but its ecology and the reasons of its endemism to karst are still totally unknown. The aim of this pilot study was to examine the plant composition of the diet of L. neilli at the level of order and family using DNA for molecular identification and to compare it with two other forest-dwelling Leopoldamys species, L. herberti and L. sabanus. A 202bp fragment of the rbcL gene was amplified and sequenced for twenty-three fecal samples of the three species using 454 pyrosequencing. We successfully identified a total of seventeen orders and twenty-one plant families, corresponding to thirty-three putative species, in the feces of these three Leopoldamys species. Solanaceae were the most common plants in the diet of L.neilli regardless of the region and sampling season, and they were also present in feces of both L. herberti and L. sabanus. The Araceae, Fabaceae, and Apocynaceae families were also identified in feces of L. neilli collected in various regions of Thailand and at different seasons. Plants of the Oleaceae family are consumed by both L. herberti and L. sabanus but were not found in the diet of L. neilli. Further improvements of the study, such as the use of additional genes, the creation of a reference collection, the microhistological examination of plant fragments to determine which parts of the plant are consumed, and the analysis of the animal diet of Leopoldamys are suggested to enhance the quality and accuracy of the results obtained. [less ▲]

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See detailPostglacial climate changes and rise of three ecotypes of harbor porpoises, Phocoena phocoena, in western Palearctic waters
Fontaine, Michaël; Roland, K.; Calves, I. et al

in Molecular Ecology (2014)

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See detailIs Leopoldamys neilli (Rodentia, Muridae) a synonym of Leopoldamys herberti? A reply to Balakirev et al. (2013)
Latinne, Alice ULg; Chaval, Yannick; Waengsothorn, Surachit et al

in Zootaxa (2013), 3731(4), 589-598

Recently, Balakirev et al. (2013) presented a taxonomic revision of the genus Leopoldamys based on phylogenetic analyses. They identified five main Leopoldamys genetic lineages and suggested to rename ... [more ▼]

Recently, Balakirev et al. (2013) presented a taxonomic revision of the genus Leopoldamys based on phylogenetic analyses. They identified five main Leopoldamys genetic lineages and suggested to rename several of them. According to these authors, the genetic lineage previously thought to belong to L. edwardsi (lineage L1) should be assigned to L. revertens while L. neilli (lineage L2) should be considered as a junior synonym of L. herberti. Using molecular and morphological data from a large sampling of Leopoldamys specimens, the aim of the present study was to investigate the taxonomic status of L. herberti and L. neilli. This study reveals that, contrary to Balakirev et al.’s statement, both genetic lineages L1 and L2 occur in Nakhon Ratchasima Province, close to the type locality of L. herberti. We also show that the external measurements and color pattern of L. herberti are highly similar to those of L1 specimens but are not consistent with the morphology of L2 specimens. Therefore these results strongly suggest that L. herberti should be assigned to the genetic lineage L1. Consequently L. neilli should not be considered as a junior synonym of L. herberti and this study confirms that the appropriate name of the genetic lineage L2 is L. neilli. Moreover, as our results show that L. herberti should be assigned to the lineage L1, this name has nomenclatural priority over L. revertens, the species name suggested by Balakirev et al. (2013) for this lineage. [less ▲]

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See detailDiversity and endemism of Murinae rodents in Thai limestone karsts
Latinne, Alice ULg; Waengsothorn, Surachit; Rojanadilok, Prateep et al

in Systematics and Biodiversity (2013), 11(3), 323-344

This study aims to investigate the species diversity of rodents living in karst ecosystems of Thailand. A survey has been conducted throughout Thailand, 122 karsts sampled and 477 Murinae rodents live ... [more ▼]

This study aims to investigate the species diversity of rodents living in karst ecosystems of Thailand. A survey has been conducted throughout Thailand, 122 karsts sampled and 477 Murinae rodents live-trapped. Phylogenetic reconstructions were carried out using two mitochondrial markers (cytb, COI). A sequence-based species delimitation method completed by the analysis of the level of genetic divergence was then applied to define species boundaries within our dataset. The phylogenetic position of Niviventer hinpoon was also investigated and sequences obtained from the holotype specimen of this species were used to reliably identify samples of N. hinpoon. A total of 12 described Murinae species, corresponding to 17 deeply divergent genetic lineages, were encountered in limestone karsts of Thailand. Our study revealed an important genetic diversity within the traditionally recognized species Maxomys surifer (four highly divergent genetic lineages), Leopoldamys neilli (two highly divergent genetic lineages) and Berylmys bowersi (two highly divergent genetic lineages). These species could be considered as species complex and require further taxonomic work. This study also provides valuable information on the distribution of the two rodent species endemic to limestone karsts of Thailand, L. neilli and N. hinpoon. Leopoldamys neilli was the most abundant species encountered in Thai karsts during our survey. However, L. neilli specimens from western Thailand are genetically highly divergent from the remaining populations of L. neilli and could represent a separate species. Niviventer hinpoon, phylogenetically closely related to N. fulvescens, is much rarer and its distribution limited to central Thailand. Most of the other captured species are typically associated with forest ecosystems. This study suggests that limestone karsts play a key role in the preservation of the rodent species endemic to such habitat, but they would also provide refuges for the forest-dwelling Murinae rodents in deforested regions. [less ▲]

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See detailEvolutionary history of Leopoldamys neilli, a karst endemic rodent in Southeast Asia, and implications for its conservation
Latinne, Alice ULg; Waengsothorn, Surachit; Michaux, Johan ULg

Conference (2013, August 15)

In this study, we have investigated the phylogeography of Leopoldamys neilli, a Murinae rodent species endemic to limestone karsts in Southeast Asia, on the basis of mitochondrial and nuclear markers ... [more ▼]

In this study, we have investigated the phylogeography of Leopoldamys neilli, a Murinae rodent species endemic to limestone karsts in Southeast Asia, on the basis of mitochondrial and nuclear markers. Both mitochondrial and nuclear markers support a large-scale population structure of four main groups within L. neilli and a strong finer structure within each of these groups. A deep genealogical divergence among geographically close lineages is observed and denotes a high population fragmentation. Our findings suggest that the current phylogeographic pattern of this species results from the fragmentation of a widespread ancestral population and that vicariance has played a significant role in the evolutionary history of L. neilli during Plio-Pleistocene. This study revealed an unexpected high level of intraspecific diversity within L. neilli. Consequently, the four main L. neilli population groups should be considered as four distinct Evolutionarily Significant Units (ESUs) and require appropriate management and conservation plans. [less ▲]

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See detailPan-African Genetic Structure in the African Buffalo (Syncerus caffer): Investigating Intraspecific Divergence
Smitz, Nathalie ULg; Berthouly, C.; Cornélis, D. et al

in PLoS ONE (2013), 8(2),

The African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) exhibits extreme morphological variability, which has led to controversies about the validity and taxonomic status of the various recognized subspecies. The present ... [more ▼]

The African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) exhibits extreme morphological variability, which has led to controversies about the validity and taxonomic status of the various recognized subspecies. The present study aims to clarify these by inferring the pan-African spatial distribution of genetic diversity, using a comprehensive set of mitochondrial D-loop sequences from across the entire range of the species. All analyses converged on the existence of two distinct lineages, corresponding to a group encompassing West and Central African populations and a group encompassing East and Southern African populations. The former is currently assigned to two to three subspecies (S. c. nanus, S. c. brachyceros, S. c. aequinoctialis) and the latter to a separate subspecies (S. c. caffer). Forty-two per cent of the total amount of genetic diversity is explained by the between-lineage component, with one to seventeen female migrants per generation inferred as consistent with the isolation-with-migration model. The two lineages diverged between 145 000 to 449 000 years ago, with strong indications for a population expansion in both lineages, as revealed by coalescent-based analyses, summary statistics and a star-like topology of the haplotype network for the S. c. caffer lineage. A Bayesian analysis identified the most probable historical migration routes, with the Cape buffalo undertaking successive colonization events from Eastern toward Southern Africa. Furthermore, our analyses indicate that, in the West-Central African lineage, the forest ecophenotype may be a derived form of the savanna ecophenotype and not vice versa, as has previously been proposed. The African buffalo most likely expanded and diverged in the late to middle Pleistocene from an ancestral population located around the current-day Central African Republic, adapting morphologically to colonize new habitats, hence developing the variety of ecophenotypes observed today. © 2013 Smitz et al. [less ▲]

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See detailCryptic diversity in brevipalpus mites (tenuipalpidae)
Navia, D.; Mendonça, R. S.; Ferragut, F. et al

in Zoologica Scripta (2013), 42(4), 406-426

Defining the taxonomic identity of organisms is a prerequisite for their study, and in the case of economically important species, misidentification may lead to the application of inappropriate prevention ... [more ▼]

Defining the taxonomic identity of organisms is a prerequisite for their study, and in the case of economically important species, misidentification may lead to the application of inappropriate prevention and control strategies. Flat mites of the Brevipalpus genus include several crop pests and the systematics of these mites represents a challenge for acarologists. Many of the most economically important Brevipalpus species have repeatedly been inaccurately identified. Such problematic classification has been attributed to the likely occurrence of cryptic species in the genus. In this study, we used an integrative approach that combined molecular analyses, including sequence-based species delimitation, with detailed morphological identification using traits that have recently showed to be taxonomically informative. Sequences of mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) were obtained from individuals collected from host plants belonging to 14 genera and 13 families across 29 locations in the Americas (Brazil, Chile, USA). The phylogenetic analyses included previously published Brevipalpus sequences from GenBank, and the final data set was classified into 44 haplotypes. Six putative species were recognised by COI-based species delimitation analysis, and morphological evidence supported each of these species. The integrative approach revealed the occurrence of cryptic species in the Brevipalpus genus and contributed to the clarification of previously noted incongruences. The results presented here allow for the evaluation of taxonomic characteristics in a phylogenetic context and indicate new characters for the differentiation of Brevipalpus species. In addition, Brevipalpus incognitus n. sp. Ferragut & Navia, a cryptic species detected in this study, is described based on morphological and molecular traits. Implications of the advances in Brevipalpus systematics presented herein with respect to pest management are briefly discussed. © 2013 The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. [less ▲]

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See detailMolecular phylogeny and systematics of Dipodoidea: a test of morphology-based hypotheses
Lebedev, Vladimir; Bannikova, Anna; Pagès, Marie ULg et al

in Zoologica Scripta (2013), (3),

The superfamily Dipodoidea (Rodentia, Myomorpha) in its current interpretation contains a single family subdivided into six subfamilies. Four of them include morphologically specialized bipedal arid ... [more ▼]

The superfamily Dipodoidea (Rodentia, Myomorpha) in its current interpretation contains a single family subdivided into six subfamilies. Four of them include morphologically specialized bipedal arid-dwelling jerboas (Dipodinae – three-toed jerboas, Allactaginae – fivetoed jerboas, Cardiocraniinae – pygmy jerboas and Euchoreutinae – long-eared jerboas), the other two are represented by more generalized quadrupedal taxa (Zapodinae – jumping mice and Sminthinae – birch mice). Despite considerable effort from morphologists, the taxonomy as well as the phylogeny of the Dipodoidea remains controversial. Strikingly, molecular approach has never been envisaged to investigate these questions. In this study, the phylogenetic relationships among the main dipodoid lineages were reconstructed for the first time using DNA sequence data from four nuclear genes (IRBP, GHR, BRCA1, RAG1). No evidence of conflict among genes was revealed. The same robustly supported tree topology was inferred from the concatenated alignment whatever the phylogenetic methods used (maximum parsimony, maximum-likelihood and Bayesian phylogenetic methods). Sminthinae branches basally within the dipodoids followed by Zapodinae. Monophyletic Cardiocraniinae is sister to all other jerboas. Within the latter, the monophyly of both Dipodinae and Allactaginae is highly supported. The relationships between Dipodinae, Allactaginae and Euchoreutinae should be regarded as unresolved trichotomy. Morphological hypotheses were confronted to findings based on the presented molecular data. As a result, previously proposed sister group relationships between Euchoreutes and Sicista, Paradipus and Cardiocraniinae as well as the monophyly of Cardiocaniinae + Dipodinae were rejected. However, the latter association is consistently supported by most morphological analyses. The basis of the obvious conflict between genes and morphology remains unclear. Suggested modifications to the taxonomy of Dipodoidea imply recognition of three families: Sminthidae, Zapodidae and Dipodidae, the latter including Cardiocraniinae, Euchoreutinae, Allactaginae and Dipodinae as subfamilies. [less ▲]

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See detailToward a Noninvasive Inuit Polar Bear Survey: Genetic Data from Polar Bear Hair Snags
Van Coeverden de Groot, Peter; Wong, Pamela; Harris, Christopher et al

in Wildlife Society Bulletin (2013)

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See detailCombined Mitochondrial and Nuclear Markers Revealed a Deep Vicariant History for Leopoldamys neilli, a Cave-Dwelling Rodent of Thailand
Latinne, Alice ULg; Waengsothorn, Surachit; Rojanadilok, Prateep et al

in PLoS ONE (2012), 7(10), 47670

Background: Historical biogeography and evolutionary processes of cave taxa have been widely studied in temperate regions. However, Southeast Asian cave ecosystems remain largely unexplored despite their ... [more ▼]

Background: Historical biogeography and evolutionary processes of cave taxa have been widely studied in temperate regions. However, Southeast Asian cave ecosystems remain largely unexplored despite their high scientific interest. Here we studied the phylogeography of Leopoldamys neilli, a cave-dwelling murine rodent living in limestone karsts of Thailand, and compared the molecular signature of mitochondrial and nuclear markers. Methodology/Principal Findings: We used a large sampling (n = 225) from 28 localities in Thailand and a combination of mitochondrial and nuclear markers with various evolutionary rates (two intronic regions and 12 microsatellites). The evolutionary history of L. neilli and the relative role of vicariance and dispersal were investigated using ancestral range reconstruction analysis and Approximate Bayesian computation (ABC). Both mitochondrial and nuclear markers support a large-scale population structure of four main groups (west, centre, north and northeast) and a strong finer structure within each of these groups. A deep genealogical divergence among geographically close lineages is observed and denotes a high population fragmentation. Our findings suggest that the current phylogeographic pattern of this species results from the fragmentation of a widespread ancestral population and that vicariance has played a significant role in the evolutionary history of L. neilli. These deep vicariant events that occurred during Plio-Pleistocene are related to the formation of the Central Plain of Thailand. Consequently, the western, central, northern and northeastern groups of populations were historically isolated and should be considered as four distinct Evolutionarily Significant Units (ESUs). Conclusions/Significance: Our study confirms the benefit of using several independent genetic markers to obtain a comprehensive and reliable picture of L. neilli evolutionary history at different levels of resolution. The complex genetic structure of Leopoldamys neilli is supported by congruent mitochondrial and nuclear markers and has been influenced by the geological history of Thailand during Plio-Pleistocene. [less ▲]

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See detailPhylogeography and evolutionary history of Leopoldamys neilli, a Murinae rodent endemic to limestone karsts, in Thailand
Latinne, Alice ULg; Waengsothorn, Surachit; Herbreteau, Vincent et al

Conference (2012, May 15)

Limestone karsts are highly threatened biodiversity hotspots supporting high levels of endemic species. Karsts are patchy distributed within Southeast Asia and their isolation from one another give them ... [more ▼]

Limestone karsts are highly threatened biodiversity hotspots supporting high levels of endemic species. Karsts are patchy distributed within Southeast Asia and their isolation from one another give them the features of “islands on the continent” and has important consequences for the genetic structure of endemic taxa. In present study, we have studied the phylogeography of Neill’s Rat Leopoldamys neilli, a threatened Murinae rodent species endemic to limestone karsts of Thailand, on the basis of two mitochondrial markers, two nuclear fragments, as well as twelve microsatellite loci. Our study gave evidence of a complex and strong geographic structure of the genetic diversity for L. neilli. Several highly differentiated genetic lineages were observed throughout Thailand. These results suggest a severe fragmentation of L. neilli’s populations, correlated to the fragmented distribution of its habitat and highlight its high endemicity to limestone karsts. The evolutionary history of L. neilli was investigated using Approximate Bayesian computation (ABC) and our results suggest that the current phylogeographic pattern of this species result from several deep vicariant events during Plio-Pleistocene. To conclude, this study revealed an unexpected high level of intraspecific diversity within L. neilli. These results consolidate the importance to strengthen the protection of limestone habitats and to preserve not only their high interspecific but also intraspecific diversity. [less ▲]

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See detailThe optimization of microsatellite genotyping and genetic sexing of non-invasively collected polar bear tissue: Implications for monitoring and census.
Harris, Christopher; Van Coeverden De Groot, Peter; Kamookak, L et al

Conference (2012, April)

The monitoring of Polar Bears in Canada has been completed largely through management unit (MU) wide capture-mark-recapture (CMR) surveys. While this data is very useful at the time of collection, these ... [more ▼]

The monitoring of Polar Bears in Canada has been completed largely through management unit (MU) wide capture-mark-recapture (CMR) surveys. While this data is very useful at the time of collection, these surveys are expensive and take time to plan and execute; cannot be feasibly executed across the polar bear range at intervals that reflect the expected rapid environmental changes in the Arctic; and are disdained by the Inuit as being invasive. As part of recent efforts to explore less expensive and non-invasive methods to monitor polar bears (see Wong et al & Van Coevderden de Groot et al this conference) we are evaluating genetic information obtained from non-invasively collected polar bear tissue. In this work we report on the genetic data obtained from non-invasively collected harisnags recovered from sampling stations erected between May-June 2006-2009 in M’Clintock Channel, Nunavut. Across the 4 years 344 hair snags were collected; following Paetkau (2004) we optimized 6 microsatellite loci to reliably amplify polar bear DNA from this tissue and we modified the procedure of Pages et al (2009) to reliably genetically sex these tissues. Our estimates for two common errors with this type of tissue across all loci – allelic dropout (0.026) and false allele (0.03) - were both less than p =.05. This suggests these errors are not going to significantly affect the accuracy of the consensus genotypes collected from these data. Using consensus genotypes from relevant hairsnags, we posit a minimum of 59 (max 82) unique bears entered our sampling stations. Of these, 24% were female, 64% were male, and 12% could not be sexed. We resampled 2 bears in 2006, 1 in 2007, 0 bears in 2008 and 14 bears in 2009 – the 2009 value reflects significantly increased sampling effort in 2009. Five bears were re-sampled between the non-invasive surveys in 2006-2009. When comparing our data to a subset of cubs and subadults captured during the Taylor et al. (2006) CMR survey of M’Clintock Channel (MU), we found 6 genotype matches. Our sampling stations may have a male bias as the sex ratio from the 1998-2000 CMR study was 42.1% ♂ (Taylor et al 2006) vs. 64% ♂ (this study). We cannot accurately determine the age bias (but see Wong et al this conference). Genetic data from Polar bear faecal samples may provide an unbiased sex and age sample of polar bears in any MU. Any data from these samples will help refine hairsnag derived MKNA estimate of polar bears from any MU. Here we report on our efforts to genotype and genetically sex 95 faecals we have collected from M’Clintock Channel from 2006-2009. Finally, we discuss the implications of these findings, results from other noninvasive work (Wong et al & Van Coevderden de Groot et al this conference) and ongoing/proposed work in the context of i) a non-invasive Inuit-based polar bear activity and health survey, and ii) a more rigorous census method which may allow more precise adjustments of harvest levels than currently possible using infrequently collected CMR data only. [less ▲]

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