Genetic analysis reveals population structure and recent migration within the highly fragmented range of the Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli)

Anthropology Department, City University of New York Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016, USA.
Molecular Ecology (Impact Factor: 6.49). 03/2007; 16(3):501-16. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2006.03159.x
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Recently developed methods of individual-based analysis of genetic data allow an unprecedented opportunity to understand the relationships among fragmented populations. By defining population structure and identifying migrant individuals, such analyses can provide a framework to aid in evaluating the threats posed by inbreeding and reduced genetic variability as a consequence of limited gene flow among fragments. Here we investigate population structure in the critically endangered Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli) by applying a suite of individual-based analyses to data obtained from between one-quarter and one-third of the estimated total population through the use of noninvasively collected DNA samples. The population structure inferred using data from 11 autosomal microsatellite loci was broadly consistent with geography and habitat fragmentation, but showed no simple isolation-by-distance effects. In contrast to previous field surveys, which suggested that all gorilla localities were isolated from one another, we infer low levels of gene flow and identify migrants between habitat fragments as well as individuals of admixed ancestry, suggesting persistent recent reproductive contact between many of the localities. These results are encouraging for the conservation of the Cross River gorilla population. Conservation efforts should strive to maintain connectivity between subpopulations that are still in migratory contact and attempt to restore connectivity where it has been lost.

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Available from: Linda Vigilant, Mar 23, 2015
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    • "Genetic diversity is also an important factor for conservation status. Thus, analysis of the genetic structure of a population can provide information that is essential to the conservation of the population or species [Bergle & Vigilant, 2007]. Sex-biased dispersal patterns affect the population genetic structure [Eriksson et al., 2006; Langergraber et al., 2007]. "
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    • "This can be particularly important when the focal species of the study occurs in sympatry with related taxa [13]. Analyses based on faecal DNA have been applied to a broad range of taxa to address questions from occupancy and food habits to abundances, species distribution, and habitat use [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [13]. "
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    • "This is in effect a highly demanding approach, but there should be increasing opportunities for such studies, notably in primates, with the development of noninvasive population genetic studies for fundamental research and for management and conservation purposes, as well. Recent examples in two emblematic taxa include: the case for gorillas (Bergl & Vigilant 2007; Douadi et al. 2007) and, as could be expected, orangutans (Goossens et al. 2006 "
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