The Genetic Integrity of the Ex Situ Population of the European Wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris) Is Seriously Threatened by Introgression from Domestic Cats (Felis silvestris catus).
PLoS ONE 9(8): e106083. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0106083
Studies on the genetic diversity and relatedness of zoo populations are crucial for implementing successful breeding programmes. The European wildcat, Felis s. silvestris, is subject to intensive conservation measures, including captive breeding and reintroduction. We here present the first systematic genetic analysis of the captive population of Felis s. silvestris in comparison with a natural wild population. We used microsatellites and mtDNA sequencing to assess genetic diversity, structure and integrity of the ex situ population. Our results show that the ex situ population of the European wildcat is highly structured and that it has a higher genetic diversity than the studied wild population. Some genetic clusters matched the breeding lines of certain zoos or groups of zoos that often exchanged individuals. Two mitochondrial haplotype groups were detected in the in situ populations, one of which was closely related to the most common haplotype found in domestic cats, suggesting past introgression in the wild. Although native haplotypes were also found in the captive population, the majority (68%) of captive individuals shared a common mtDNA haplotype with the domestic cat (Felis s. catus). Only six captive individuals (7.7%) were assigned as wildcats in the STRUCTURE analysis (at K = 2), two of which had domestic cat mtDNA haplotypes and only two captive individuals were assigned as purebred wildcats by NewHybrids. These results suggest that the high genetic diversity of the captive population has been caused by admixture with domestic cats. Therefore, the captive population cannot be recommended for further breeding and reintroduction.
Multi-locus analyses reveal four giraffe species instead of one.
Current Biology 26 (18): 2543-2549.
Traditionally, one giraffe species and up to eleven subspecies have been recognized; however, nine subspecies are commonly accepted. Even after a century of research, the distinctness of each giraffe subspecies remains unclear, and the genetic variation across their distribution range has been incompletely explored. Recent genetic studies on mtDNA have shown reciprocal monophyly of the matrilines among seven of the nine assumed subspecies. Moreover, until now, genetic analyses have not been applied to biparentally inherited sequence data and did not include data from all nine giraffe subspecies. We sampled natural giraffe populations from across their range in Africa, and for the first time individuals from the nominate subspecies, the Nubian giraffe, Giraffa camelopardalis camelopardalis Linnaeus 1758 , were included in a genetic analysis. Coalescence-based multi-locus and population genetic analyses identify at least four separate and monophyletic clades, which should be recognized as four distinct giraffe species under the genetic isolation criterion. Analyses of 190 individuals from maternal and biparental markers support these findings and further suggest subsuming Rothschild’s giraffe into the Nubian giraffe, as well as Thornicroft’s giraffe into the Masai giraffe . A giraffe survey genome produced valuable data from microsatellites, mobile genetic elements, and accurate divergence time estimates. Our findings provide the most inclusive analysis of giraffe relationships to date and show that their genetic complexity has been underestimated, highlighting the need for greater conservation efforts for the world’s tallest mammal.
First insights into past biodiversity of giraffes based on mitochondrial sequences from museum specimens.
European Journal of Taxonomy 703: 1–33. ISSN 2118-9773. https://doi.org/10.5852/ejt.2020.703
Intensified exploration of sub-Saharan Africa during the 18th and 19th centuries led to many newly described giraffe subspecies. Several populations described at that time are now extinct, which is problematic for a full understanding of giraffe taxonomy. In this study, we provide mitochondrial sequences for 41 giraffes, including 19 museum specimens of high importance to resolve giraffe taxonomy, such as Zarafa from Sennar and two giraffes from Abyssinia (subspecies camelopardalis), three of the first southern individuals collected by Levaillant and Delalande (subspecies capensis), topotypes of the former subspecies congoensis and cottoni, and giraffes from an extinct population in Senegal. Our phylogeographic analysis shows that no representative of the nominate subspecies camelopardalis was included in previous molecular studies, as Zarafa and two other specimens assigned to this taxon are characterized by a divergent haplogroup, that the former subspecies congoensis and cottoni should be treated as synonyms of antiquorum, and that the subspecies angolensis and capensis should be synonymized with giraffa, whereas the subspecies wardi should be rehabilitated. In addition, we found evidence for the existence of a previously unknown subspecies from Senegal (newly described in this study), which is now extinct. Based on these results, we propose a new classification of giraffes recognizing three species and 10 subspecies. According to our molecular dating estimates, the divergence among these taxa has been promoted by Pleistocene climatic changes resulting in either savannah expansion or the development of hydrographical networks (Zambezi, Nile, Lake Chad, Lake Victoria).
A preliminary analysis of phylogenetic relationships and biogeography of the dangerously venomous Carpet Vipers, Echis (Squamata, Serpentes, Viperidae) based on mitochondrial DNA sequences.
Amphibia-Reptilia 30(2):273-282. DOI: 10.1163/156853809788201090.
Phylogenetic analysis of 1117 bp of mitochondrial DNA sequences (731 bp of cytochrome b and 386 bp of 16S rRNA) indicate that Echis consists of four main clades: E. ocellatus, and the E. coloratus, E. pyramidum, and E. carinatus groups. In the E. coloratus group, E. coloratus itself shows substantial genetic divergence from E. omanensis, corroborating their separate species status. In the E. pyramidum clade, E. pyramidum from Egypt and E. leucogaster from West Africa are genetically very similar, even though samples are separated by 4000 km. South Arabian populations of the E. pyramidum group are much better differentiated from these and two species may be present, animals from Dhofar, southern Oman probably being referable to E. khosatzkii. In the E. carinatus group, specimens of E. carinatus sochureki and E. multisquamatus are very similar in their DNA. The phylogeny indicates that the split between the main groups of Echis was followed by separation of African and Arabian members of the E. pyramidum group, and of E. coloratus and E. omanensis. The last disjunction probably took place at the lowlands that run southwest of the North Oman mountains, which are likely to have been intermittently covered by marine incursions; they also separate the E. pyramidum and E. carinatus groups and several sister taxa of other reptiles. The E. carinatus group may have spread quite recently from North Oman into its very extensive southwest Asian range, and there appears to have been similar expansion of E. pyramidum (including E. leucogaster) in North Africa. Both these events are likely to be associated with the marked climatic changes of the Pleistocene or late Pliocene. Similar dramatic expansions have also recently occurred in three snake species in Iberia.
Molecular diversity and phylogenetic analysis of domestic and wild Bactrian camel populations based on the mitochondrial ATP8 and ATP6 genes.
Livestock Science 199 (May 2017): 95-100.
- We analyzed the diversity of mitochondrial ATP8/6 gene in Bactrian camel populations.
- All domestic Bactrian camel populations were clustered as a single major group in the haplotype network.
- A single haplotype was identified in the wild Bactrian camel population, which formed a separate branch.
- The phylogenetic tree showed the same patterns as the haplotype network.
- Wild and domestic Bactrian camels evolved from two distinct ancestors.
The Phylogenetic Relationships of the Shags and Cormorants: Can Sequence Data Resolve a Disagreement between Behavior and Morphology?
Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 17 (3): 345-359.
Taxonomic arrangements for the cormorants and shags (Phalacrocoracidae) had varied greatly until two quite similar arrangements, one based on behavior and the other on osteological characters, became the basis for current thought on the evolutionary relationships of these birds. The terms cormorant and shag, which had previously been haphazardly applied to members of the group, became the vernacular terms for the two major subdivisions within this family. The two taxonomies differ in places, however, with the behavioral taxonomy placing several species within the shags and the osteological taxonomy and phylogeny grouping those species (as the marine cormorants) and placing them within the cormorants. In an attempt to resolve the differences in the relationships hypothesized by behavior and morphology, we sequenced three mitochondrial genes (12S, ATPase 6, and ATPase 8). Initial equally weighted parsimony trees differed slightly from our two weighted parsimony trees, one of which was also our maximum-likelihood tree. Many of the branches within our trees were well supported, but some sections of the phylogeny proved difficult to resolve with confidence. Our sequence trees differ substantially from the morphological phylogeny and show that neither the shags nor the cormorants are monophyletic, but form an intermingled group. Some of the groups supported by both the behavioral and the morphological taxonomies (e.g., the cliff shags, Stictocarbo) appear to be polyphyletic. Conversely, the monophyly of the blue-eyed shags, a traditional group that the osteological analysis had found to be paraphyletic, was supported by the sequence data. Until more taxa are sampled and a fully robust phylogeny is obtained, a conservative approach accepting a single genus, Phalacrocorax, for the shags and cormorants is recommended.
A comprehensive molecular phylogeny for the hornbills (Aves: Bucerotidae).
Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution Vol. 67 (2): 468-483
The hornbills comprise a group of morphologically and behaviorally distinct Palaeotropical bird species that feature prominently in studies of ecology and conservation biology. Although the monophyly of hornbills is well established, previous phylogenetic hypotheses were based solely on mtDNA and limited sampling of species diversity. We used parsimony, maximum likelihood and Bayesian methods to reconstruct relationships among all 61 extant hornbill species, based on nuclear and mtDNA gene sequences extracted largely from historical samples. The resulting phylogenetic trees closely match vocal variation across the family but conflict with current taxonomic treatments. In particular, they highlight a new arrangement for the six major clades of hornbills and reveal that three groups traditionally treated as genera (Tockus, Aceros, Penelopides) are non-monophyletic. In addition, two other genera (Anthracoceros, Ocyceros) were non-monophyletic in the mtDNA gene tree. Our findings resolve some longstanding problems in hornbill systematics, including the placement of ‘Penelopides exharatus’ (embedded in Aceros) and ‘Tockus hartlaubi’ (sister to Tropicranus albocristatus). We also confirm that an Asiatic lineage (Berenicornis) is sister to a trio of Afrotropical genera (Tropicranus [including ‘Tockus hartlaubi’], Ceratogymna, Bycanistes). We present a summary phylogeny as a robust basis for further studies of hornbill ecology, evolution and historical biogeography.
Genome-Wide Evolutionary Analysis of Natural History and Adaptation in the World’s Tigers.
Current Biology 28 (23). 10.1016/j.cub.2018.09.019.
No other species attracts more international resources, public attention, and protracted controversies over its intraspecific taxonomy than the tiger (Panthera tigris) [1, 2]. Today, fewer than 4,000 free-ranging tigers survive, covering only 7% of their historical range, and debates persist over whether they comprise six, five, or two subspecies [3–6]. The lack of consensus over the number of tiger subspecies has partially hindered the global effort to recover the species from the brink of extinction, as both captive breeding and landscape intervention of wild populations increasingly require an explicit delineation of the conservation management units . The recent coalescence to a late Pleistocene bottleneck (circa 110 kya) [5, 8, 9] poses challenges for detecting tiger subspecific morphological traits, suggesting that elucidating intraspecific evolution in the tiger requires analyses at the genomic scale. Here, we present whole-genome sequencing analyses from 32 voucher specimens that resolve six statistically robust monophyletic clades corresponding to extant subspecies, including the recently recognized Malayan tiger (P. tigris jacksoni). The intersubspecies gene flow is very low, corroborating the recognized phylogeographic units. We identified multiple genomic regions that are candidates for identifying the adaptive divergence of subspecies. The body-size-related gene ADH7 appears to have been strongly selected in the Sumatran tiger, perhaps in association with adaptation to the tropical Sunda Islands. The identified genomic signatures provide a solid basis for recognizing appropriate conservation management units in the tiger and can benefit global conservation strategic planning for this charismatic megafauna icon.
Planning tiger recovery: Understanding intraspecific variation for effective conservation.
Science Advances 26 Jun 2015: 1 (5) e1400175; DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1400175
Although significantly more money is spent on the conservation of tigers than on any other threatened species, today only 3200 to 3600 tigers roam the forests of Asia, occupying only 7% of their historical range. Despite the global significance of and interest in tiger conservation, global approaches to plan tiger recovery are partly impeded by the lack of a consensus on the number of tiger subspecies or management units, because a comprehensive analysis of tiger variation is lacking. We analyzed variation among all nine putative tiger subspecies, using extensive data sets of several traits [morphological (craniodental and pelage), ecological, molecular]. Our analyses revealed little variation and large overlaps in each trait among putative subspecies, and molecular data showed extremely low diversity because of a severe Late Pleistocene population decline. Our results support recognition of only two subspecies: the Sunda tiger, Panthera tigris sondaica, and the continental tiger, Panthera tigris tigris, which consists of two (northern and southern) management units. Conservation management programs, such as captive breeding, reintroduction initiatives, or trans-boundary projects, rely on a durable, consistent characterization of subspecies as taxonomic units, defined by robust multiple lines of scientific evidence rather than single traits or ad hoc descriptions of one or few specimens. Our multiple-trait data set supports a fundamental rethinking of the conventional tiger taxonomy paradigm, which will have profound implications for the management of in situ and ex situ tiger populations and boost conservation efforts by facilitating a pragmatic approach to tiger conservation management worldwide.
Evolution and taxonomy of the wild species of the genus Ovis (Mammalia, Artiodactyla, Bovidae)
Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 54(2):315-26 · November 2009
New insights for the systematic and evolution of the wild sheep are provided by molecular phylogenies inferred from Maximum parsimony, Bayesian, Maximum likelihood, and Neighbor-Joining methods. The phylogeny of the wild sheep was based on cytochrome b sequences of 290 samples representative of most of the sub-species described in the genus Ovis. The result was confirmed by a combined tree based on cytochrome b and nuclear sequences for 79 Ovis samples representative of the robust clades established with mitochondrial data. Urial and mouflon, which are either considered as a single or two separate species, form two monophyletic groups (O. orientalis and O. vignei). Their hybrids appear in one or the other group, independently from their geographic origin. The European mouflon O. musimon is clearly in the O. orientalis clade. The others species, O. dalli, O. canadensis, O. nivicola, and O. ammon are monophyletic. The results support an Asiatic origin of the genus Ovis, followed by a migration to North America through North-Eastern Asia and the Bering Strait and a diversification of the genus in Eurasia less than 3 million years ago. Our results show that the evolution of the genus Ovis is a striking example of successive speciation events occurring along the migration routes propagating from the ancestral area.