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Population-level assessment of genetic diversity and habitat fragmentation in critically endangered Grauer's gorillas
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Ecology and Genetics, Animal ecology.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Ecology and Genetics, Animal ecology.
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2018 (English)In: American Journal of Physical Anthropology, ISSN 0002-9483, E-ISSN 1096-8644, Vol. 165, no 3, p. 565-575Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Objectives: The critically endangered Grauer's gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri) has experienced an estimated 77% population decline within a single generation. Although crucial for informed conservation decisions, there is no clear understanding about population structure and distribution of genetic diversity across the species' highly fragmented range. We fill this gap by studying several core and peripheral Grauer's gorilla populations throughout their distribution range.

Materials and Methods: We generated genetic profiles for a sampling of an unstudied population of Grauer's gorillas from within the species' core range at 13 autosomal microsatellite loci and combined them with previously published and newly generated data from four other Grauer's gorilla populations, two mountain gorilla populations, and one western lowland gorilla population.

Results: In agreement with previous studies, the genetic diversity of Grauer's gorillas is intermediate, falling between western lowland and mountain gorillas. Among Grauer's gorilla populations, we observe lower genetic diversity and high differentiation in peripheral compared with central populations, indicating a strong effect of genetic drift and limited gene flow among small, isolated forest fragments.

Discussion: Although genetically less diverse, peripheral populations are frequently essential for the long-term persistence of a species and migration between peripheral and core populations may significantly enrich the overall species genetic diversity. Thus, in addition to central Grauer's gorilla populations from the core of the distribution range that clearly deserve conservation attention, we argue that conservation strategies aiming to ensure long-term species viability should include preserving peripheral populations and enhancing habitat connectivity.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018. Vol. 165, no 3, p. 565-575
National Category
Other Biological Topics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-348947DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.23393ISI: 000425728300012PubMedID: 29313894OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-348947DiVA, id: diva2:1198991
Available from: 2018-04-19 Created: 2018-04-19 Last updated: 2019-06-04Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Genomics of population decline
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Genomics of population decline
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

With human populations forecasted to grow in the next decades, many mammals face increasing anthropogenic threats. The consequential population declines are a precursor to extinctions, as small populations are not only more sensitive to stochastic events, but reduction in population size is generally also followed by a decrease in genetic diversity, which in turn reduces adaptive potential and fitness of the population. By using molecular methods I aimed to estimate the magnitude of the genomic consequences as a result of rapid population declines with a focus on the endangered eastern gorillas. First, I genotyped Grauer’s gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri) faecal samples, which revealed lower genetic diversity and high differentiation in the peripheral compared to the central populations, indicating a strong effect of genetic drift and limited gene flow among the small, isolated forest fragments (Chapter 1). Next, by using a target capture approach I obtained complete mitochondrial genomes from degraded Grauer’s and mountain (Gorilla beringei beringei) gorilla faecal and museum samples (Chapter 2) which showed a loss of mitochondrial diversity within the last century in Grauer’s gorillas, mainly driven by the extinction of peripheral populations (Chapter 3). Genome-wide sequence data from historical samples suggests that this loss has also affected the nuclear genome, as modern Grauer’s gorillas carry on average more genetic variants with putatively negative fitness consequences than historically. No significant temporal changes were observed in the closely related mountain gorillas, which might be due to their contrasting demographic history (Chapter 4). I then switched study species to the endangered Dryas monkey and find that, despite its possible small population size, the current Dryas monkey population is genetically diverse with low levels of inbreeding and as such likely viable in the long-term if appropriate conservation measures are taken (Chapter 5). Finally, I aimed to estimate the strength of genetic purging across a range of mammalian species. This revealed that although genetic purging might be common among endangered species, it mainly acts on long evolutionary time scales with limited strength during the rapid population declines as experienced by many species today (Chapter 6).

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2019. p. 57
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 1822
Keywords
genetic diversity, minimal-invasive samples, population decline, inbreeding, genetic purging, eastern gorillas, Dryas monkey
National Category
Ecology
Research subject
Biology with specialization in Animal Ecology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-384346 (URN)978-91-513-0684-1 (ISBN)
Public defence
2019-09-06, Lindahlsalen, Norbyvägen 18, Uppsala, 10:00 (English)
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Available from: 2019-08-16 Created: 2019-06-04 Last updated: 2019-09-17

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