Gene flow and population structure of a solitary top carnivore in a human-dominated landscape

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dc.contributor.author McManus, Jeannine S.
dc.contributor.author Dalton, Desire L.
dc.contributor.author Kotze, Antoinette
dc.contributor.author Smuts, Bool
dc.contributor.author Dickman, Amy
dc.contributor.author Marshal, Jason P.
dc.contributor.author Keith, Mark
dc.date.accessioned 2016-02-09T11:32:29Z
dc.date.available 2016-02-09T11:32:29Z
dc.date.issued 2015-01
dc.description.abstract While African leopard populations are considered to be continuous as demonstrated by their high genetic variation, the southernmost leopard population exists in the Eastern and Western Cape, South Africa, where anthropogenic activities may be affecting this population's structure. Little is known about the elusive, last free-roaming top predator in the region and this study is the first to report on leopard population structuring using nuclear DNA. By analyzing 14 microsatellite markers from 40 leopard tissue samples, we aimed to understand the populations' structure, genetic distance, and gene flow (Nm). Our results, based on spatially explicit analysis with Bayesian methods, indicate that leopards in the region exist in a fragmented population structure with lower than expected genetic diversity. Three population groups were identified, between which low to moderate levels of gene flow were observed (Nm 0.5 to 3.6). One subpopulation exhibited low genetic differentiation, suggesting a continuous population structure, while the remaining two appear to be less connected, with low emigration and immigration between these populations. Therefore, genetic barriers are present between the subpopulations, and while leopards in the study region may function as a metapopulation, anthropogenic activities threaten to decrease habitat and movement further. Our results indicate that the leopard population may become isolated within a few generations and suggest that management actions should aim to increase habitat connectivity and reduce human-carnivore conflict. Understanding genetic diversity and connectivity of populations has important conservation implications that can highlight management of priority populations to reverse the effects of human-caused extinctions. en_ZA
dc.description.librarian hb2015 en_ZA
dc.description.sponsorship Carnegie Corporation of New York to the Global Change and Sustainability Research Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand. ABAX Foundation, Henry and Iris Englund Foundation, National Lotteries Distribution Trust Fund, Mones Michaels Trust, Arne Hanson, and Deutsche Bank South Africa Foundation. en_ZA
dc.description.uri http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1002/(ISSN)2045-7758 en_ZA
dc.identifier.citation McManus, JS, Dalton, DL, Kotze, A, Smuts, B, Dickman, A, Marshal, JP & Keith, M 2015, 'Gene flow and population structure of a solitary top carnivore in a human-dominated landscape', Ecology and Evolution, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 335-344. en_ZA
dc.identifier.issn 2045-7758
dc.identifier.other 10.1002/ece3.1322
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/2263/51289
dc.language.iso en en_ZA
dc.publisher Wiley en_ZA
dc.rights © 2014 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. en_ZA
dc.subject Gene flow en_ZA
dc.subject Panthera pardus en_ZA
dc.subject Genetic differentiation en_ZA
dc.subject Habitat fragmentation en_ZA
dc.subject Population structure en_ZA
dc.title Gene flow and population structure of a solitary top carnivore in a human-dominated landscape en_ZA
dc.type Article en_ZA


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