[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The Tibetan Plateau is one of the top 10 biodiversity hotspots in the world and acts as a modern harbour for many rare species because of its relatively pristine state. In this article, we report a landscape genetic study on the Yunnan snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus bieti), a primate endemic to the Tibetan Plateau. DNA was extracted from blood, tissue and fecal samples of 135 wild individuals representing 11 out of 15 extant monkey groups. Ten microsatellite loci were used to characterize patterns of genetic diversity. The most striking feature of the population structure is the presence of five subpopulations with distinct genetic backgrounds and unique spatial regions. The population structure of R. bieti appears to be shaped by anthropogenic landscape features as gene flow between subpopulations is strongly impeded by arable land, highways and human habitation. A partial Mantel test showed that 36.23% (r = 0.51, P = 0.01) of the genetic distance was explained by habitat gaps after controlling for the effect of geographical distance. Only 4.92% of the genetic distance was explained by geographical distance in the partial Mantel test, and no significant correlation was found. Estimation of population structure history indicates that environmental change during the last glacial maximum and human impacts since the Holocene, or a combination of both, have shaped the observed population structure of R. bieti. Increasing human activity on the Plateau, especially that resulting in habitat fragmentation, is becoming an important factor in shaping the genetic structure and evolutionary potential of species inhabiting this key ecosystem.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Rhinopithecus bieti, the Yunnan snub-nosed monkey, is the nonhuman primate with the highest altitudinal distribution and is also one of the 25 most globally endangered primate species. Currently, R. bieti is found in forests between 3000 and 4500 m above sea level, within a narrow area on the Tibetan Plateau between the Yangtze and Mekong rivers, where it is suffering from loss of habitat and shrinking population size (approximately 1500). To assess the genetic diversity within this species, its population structure and to infer its evolutionary history, we sequenced 401 bp of the hypervariable I (HVI) segment from the mitochondrial DNA control region (CR) for 157 individuals from 11 remnant patches throughout the fragmented distribution area. Fifty-two variable sites were observed and 30 haplotypes were defined. Compared with other primate species, R. bieti cannot be regarded as a taxon with low genetic diversity. Phylogenetic analysis partitioned haplotypes into two divergent haplogroups (A and B). Haplotypes from the two mitochondrial clades were found to be mixed in some patches although the distribution of haplotypes displayed local homogeneity, implying a strong population structure within R. bieti. Analysis of molecular variance detected significant differences among the different geographical regions, suggesting that R. bieti should be separated into three management units (MUs) for conservation. Based on our results, it can be hypothesized that the genetic history of R. bieti includes an initial, presumably allopatric divergence between clades A and B 1.0-0.7 million years ago (Ma), which might have been caused by the Late Cenozoic uplift of the Tibetan Plateau, secondary contact after this divergence as a result of a population expansion 0.16-0.05 Ma, and population reduction and habitat fragmentation in the very recent past.