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Genetic Variation, Structure, and Gene Flow in a Sloth Bear (Melursus ursinus) Meta-Population in the Satpura-Maikal Landscape of Central India.


ABSTRACT: Sloth bears (Melursus ursinus) are endemic to the Indian subcontinent. As a result of continued habitat loss and degradation over the past century, sloth bear populations have been in steady decline and now exist only in isolated or fragmented habitat across the entire range. We investigated the genetic connectivity of the sloth bear meta-population in five tiger reserves in the Satpura-Maikal landscape of central India. We used noninvasively collected fecal and hair samples to obtain genotypic information using a panel of seven polymorphic loci. Out of 194 field collected samples, we identified 55 individuals in this meta-population. We found that this meta-population has moderate genetic variation, and is subdivided into two genetic clusters. Further, we identified five first-generation migrants and signatures of contemporary gene flow. We found evidence of sloth bears in the corridor between the Kanha and Pench Tiger Reserves, and our results suggest that habitat connectivity and corridors play an important role in maintaining gene flow in this meta-population. These corridors face several anthropogenic and infrastructure development threats that have the potential to sever ongoing gene flow, if policies to protect them are not put into action immediately.

SUBMITTER: Dutta T 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC4422521 | BioStudies | 2015-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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