Genomic Inbreeding and Relatedness in Wild Panda Populations.
ABSTRACT: Inbreeding and relatedness in wild panda populations are important parameters for panda conservation. Habitat loss and fragmentation are expected to increase inbreeding but the actual inbreeding levels in natural panda habitats were unknown. Using 150,025 SNPs and 14,926 SNPs selected from published whole-genome sequences, we estimated genomic inbreeding coefficients and relatedness of 49 pandas including 34 wild pandas sampled from six habitats. Qinling and Liangshan pandas had the highest levels of inbreeding and relatedness measured by genomic inbreeding and coancestry coefficients, whereas the inbreeding levels in Qionglai and Minshan were 28-45% of those in Qinling and Liangshan. Genomic coancestry coefficients between pandas from different habitats showed that panda populations from the four largest habitats, Minshan, Qionglai, Qinling and Liangshan, were genetically unrelated. Pandas between these four habitats on average shared 66.0-69.1% common alleles and 45.6-48.6% common genotypes, whereas pandas within each habitat shared 71.8-77.0% common alleles and 51.7-60.4% common genotypes. Pandas in the smaller populations of Qinling and Liangshan were more similarly to each other than pandas in the larger populations of Qionglai and Minshan according to three genomic similarity measures. Panda genetic differentiation between these habitats was positively related to their geographical distances. Most pandas separated by 200 kilometers or more shared no common ancestral alleles. The results provided a genomic quantification of the actual levels of inbreeding and relatedness among pandas in their natural habitats, provided genomic confirmation of the relationship between genetic diversity and geographical distances, and provided genomic evidence to the urgency of habitat protection.
Project description:A major function of the captive panda population is to preserve the genetic diversity of wild panda populations in their natural habitats. Understanding the genetic composition of the captive panda population in terms of genetic contributions from the wild panda populations provides necessary knowledge for breeding plans to preserve the genetic diversity of the wild panda populations.The genetic contributions from different wild populations to the captive panda population were highly unbalanced, with Qionglai accounting for 52.2 % of the captive panda gene pool, followed by Minshan with 21.5 %, Qinling with 10.6 %, Liangshan with 8.2 %, and Xiaoxiangling with 3.6 %, whereas Daxiangling, which had similar population size as Xiaoxiangling, had no genetic representation in the captive population. The current breeding recommendations may increase the contribution of some small wild populations at the expense of decreasing the contributions of other small wild populations, i.e., increasing the Xiaoxiangling contribution while decreasing the contribution of Liangshan, or sharply increasing the Qinling contribution while decreasing the contributions of Xiaoxiangling and Liangshan, which were two of the three smallest wild populations and were already severely under-represented in the captive population. We developed three habitat-controlled breeding plans that could increase the genetic contributions from the smallest wild populations to 6.7-11.2 % for Xiaoxiangling, 11.5-12.3 % for Liangshan and 12.9-20.0 % for Qinling among the offspring of one breeding season while reducing the risk of hidden inbreeding due to related founders from the same habitat undetectable by pedigree data.The three smallest wild panda populations of Daxiangling, Xiaoxiangling and Liangshan either had no representation or were severely unrepresented in the current captive panda population. By incorporating the breeding goal of increasing the genetic contributions from the smallest wild populations into breeding plans, the severely under-represented small wild populations in the current captive panda population could be increased steadily for the near future.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Evaluating patterns of genetic variation is important to identify conservation units (i.e., evolutionarily significant units [ESUs], management units [MUs], and adaptive units [AUs]) in endangered species. While neutral markers could be used to infer population history, their application in the estimation of adaptive variation is limited. The capacity to adapt to various environments is vital for the long-term survival of endangered species. Hence, analysis of adaptive loci, such as the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes, is critical for conservation genetics studies. Here, we investigated 4 classical MHC class I genes (Aime-C, Aime-F, Aime-I, and Aime-L) and 8 microsatellites to infer patterns of genetic variation in the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) and to further define conservation units. RESULTS:Overall, we identified 24 haplotypes (9 for Aime-C, 1 for Aime-F, 7 for Aime-I, and 7 for Aime-L) from 218 individuals obtained from 6 populations of giant panda. We found that the Xiaoxiangling population had the highest genetic variation at microsatellites among the 6 giant panda populations and higher genetic variation at Aime-MHC class I genes than other larger populations (Qinling, Qionglai, and Minshan populations). Differentiation index (FST)-based phylogenetic and Bayesian clustering analyses for Aime-MHC-I and microsatellite loci both supported that most populations were highly differentiated. The Qinling population was the most genetically differentiated. CONCLUSIONS:The giant panda showed a relatively higher level of genetic diversity at MHC class I genes compared with endangered felids. Using all of the loci, we found that the 6 giant panda populations fell into 2 ESUs: Qinling and non-Qinling populations. We defined 3 MUs based on microsatellites: Qinling, Minshan-Qionglai, and Daxiangling-Xiaoxiangling-Liangshan. We also recommended 3 possible AUs based on MHC loci: Qinling, Minshan-Qionglai, and Daxiangling-Xiaoxiangling-Liangshan. Furthermore, we recommend that a captive breeding program be considered for the Qinling panda population.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Baylisascaris schroederi is one of the most common nematodes of the giant panda, and can cause severe baylisascarosis in both wild and captive giant pandas. Previous studies of the giant pandas indicated that this population is genetically distinct, implying the presence of a new subspecies. Based on the co-evolution between the parasite and the host, the aim of this study was to investigate the genetic differentiation in the B. schroederi population collected from giant pandas inhabiting different mountain ranges, and further to identify whether the evolution of this parasite correlates with the evolution of giant pandas. METHODS:In this study, 48 B. schroederi were collected from 28 wild giant pandas inhabiting the Qinling, Minshan and Qionglai mountain ranges in China. The complete sequence of the mitochondrial cytochrome b (mtCytb) gene was amplified by PCR, and the corresponding population genetic diversity of the three mountain populations was determined. In addition, we discussed the evolutionary relationship between B. schroederi and its host giant panda. RESULTS:For the DNA dataset, insignificant Fst values and a significant, high level of gene flow were detected among the three mountain populations of B. schroederi, and high genetic variation within populations and a low genetic distance were observed. Both phylogenetic analyses and network mapping of the 16 haplotypes revealed a dispersed pattern and an absence of branches strictly corresponding to the three mountain range sampling sites. Neutrality tests and mismatch analysis indicated that B. schroederi experienced a population expansion in the past. CONCLUSIONS:Taken together, the dispersed haplotype map, extremely high gene flow among the three populations of B. schroederi, low genetic structure and rapid evolutionary rate suggest that the B. schroederi populations did not follow a pattern of isolation by distance, indicating the existence of physical connections before these populations became geographically separated.
Project description:Understanding the impacts of meteorological factors on giant pandas is necessary for future conservation measures in response to global climate change. We integrated temperature data with three main habitat parameters (elevation, vegetation type, and bamboo species) to evaluate the influence of climate change on giant panda habitat in the northern Minshan Mountains using a habitat assessment model. Our study shows that temperature (relative importance = 25.1%) was the second most important variable influencing giant panda habitat excepting the elevation. There was a significant negative correlation between temperature and panda presence (ρ = -0.133, P < 0.05), and the temperature range preferred by giant pandas within the study area was 18-21°C, followed by 15-17°C and 22-24°C. The overall suitability of giant panda habitats will increase by 2.7%, however, it showed a opposite variation patterns between the eastern and northwestern region of the study area. Suitable and subsuitable habitats in the northwestern region of the study area, which is characterized by higher elevation and latitude, will increase by 18007.8 hm(2) (9.8% habitat suitability), while the eastern region will suffer a decrease of 9543.5 hm(2) (7.1% habitat suitability). Our results suggest that increasing areas of suitable giant panda habitat will support future giant panda expansion, and food shortage and insufficient living space will not arise as problems in the northwest Minshan Mountains, which means that giant pandas can adapt to climate change, and therefore may be resilient to climate change. Thus, for the safety and survival of giant pandas in the Baishuijiang Reserve, we propose strengthening the giant panda monitoring program in the west and improving the integrity of habitats to promote population dispersal with adjacent populations in the east.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Infection with the parasitic nematode, Baylisascaris schroederi (Ascaridida: Nematoda), is one of the most important causes of death in giant pandas, and was responsible for half of deaths between 2001 and 2005. Mitochondrial (mt) DNA sequences of parasites can unveil their genetic diversity and depict their likely dynamic evolution and therefore may provide insights into parasite survival and responses to host changes, as well as parasite control. METHODS:Based on previous studies, the present study further annotated the genetic variability and structure of B. schroederi populations by combining two different mtDNA markers, ATPase subunit 6 (atp6) and cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (cox1). Both sequences were completely amplified and genetically analyzed among 57 B. schroederi isolates, which were individually collected from ten geographical regions located in three important giant panda habitats in China (Minshan, Qionglai and Qinling mountain ranges). RESULTS:For the DNA dataset, we identified 20 haplotypes of atp6, 24 haplotypes of cox1, and 39 haplotypes of atp6?+?cox1. Further haplotype network and phylogenetic analyses demonstrated that B. schroederi populations were predominantly driven by three common haplotypes, atp6 A1, cox1 C10, and atp6?+?cox1 H11. However, due to low rates of gene differentiation between the three populations, both the atp6 and cox1 genes appeared not to be significantly associated with geographical divisions. In addition, high gene flow was detected among the B. schroederi populations, consistent with previous studies, suggesting that this parasite may be essentially homogenous across endemic areas. Finally, neutrality tests and mismatch analysis indicated that B. schroederi had undergone earlier demographic expansion. CONCLUSIONS:These results confirmed that B. schroederi populations do not follow a pattern of isolation by distance, further revealing the possible existence of physical connections before geographic separation. This study should also contribute to an improved understanding of the population genetics and evolutionary biology of B. schroederi and assist in the control of baylisascariasis in giant pandas.
Project description:The rise in infections by antibiotic-resistant bacteria poses a serious public health problem worldwide. The gut microbiome of animals is a reservoir for antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs). However, the correlation between the gut microbiome of wild animals and ARGs remains controversial. Here, based on the metagenomes of giant pandas (including three wild populations from the Qinling, Qionglai and Xiaoxiangling Mountains, and two major captive populations from Yaan and Chengdu), we investigated the potential correlation between the constitution of the gut microbiome and the composition of ARGs across the different geographic locations and living environments. We found that the types of ARGs were correlated with gut microbiome composition. The NMDS cluster analysis using Jaccard distance of the ARGs composition of the gut microbiome of wild giant pandas displayed a difference based on geographic location. Captivity also had an effect on the differences in ARGs composition. Furthermore, we found that the Qinling population exhibited profound dissimilarities of both gut microbiome composition and ARGs (the highest proportion of Clostridium and vancomycin resistance genes) when compared to the other wild and captive populations studies, which was supported by previous giant panda whole-genome sequencing analysis. In this study, we provide an example of a potential consensus pattern regarding host population genetics, symbiotic gut microbiome and ARGs. We revealed that habitat isolation impacts the ARG structure in the gut microbiome of mammals. Therefore, the difference in ARG composition between giant panda populations will provide some basic information for their conservation and management, especially for captive populations.
Project description:Many studies reported biotic change along a continental warming gradient. However, the temporal and spatial change of tree diversity and their sensitivity to climate warming might differ from region to region. Understanding of the variation among studies with regard to the magnitude of such biotic changes is minimal, especially in montane ecosystems. Our aim is to better understand changes in spatial heterogeneity and temporal dynamics of mountain tree communities under climate warming over the past four decades. In 2017, we resurveyed and recorded all tree species from 107 long-term monitoring plots that were first studied between 1974 and 1976. These plots were located in montane forests in the Giant Panda National Park (GPNP), China. Our results showed that spatial differences were found in tree species diversity changes response to mean annual temperature change over the past four decades. Tree species richness increased significantly under climate warming in Minshan (MS) and Xiaoxiangling (XXL) with higher warming rate than Qionglai (QLS) and Liangshan (LS). The trees species diversity in MS and XXL were more sensitive to climatic warming. MS and XXL should receive priority protection in the next conservation plan of the GPNP. The GPNP should avoid taking a "one-size-fits-all" approach for diversity conservation due to spatial heterogeneity in plant community dynamics.
Project description:Understanding the interaction between life history, demography and population genetics in threatened species is critical for the conservations of viable populations. In the context of habitat loss and fragmentation, identifying the factors that underpin the structuring of genetic variation within populations can allow conservationists to evaluate habitat quality and connectivity and help to design dispersal corridors effectively. In this study, we carried out a detailed, fine-scale landscape genetic investigation of a giant panda population from the Qinling Mountains for the first time. With a large microsatellite data set and complementary analysis methods, we examined the role of isolation-by-barriers (IBB), isolation-by-distance (IBD) and isolation-by-resistance (IBR) in shaping the pattern of genetic variation in this giant panda population. We found that the Qinling population comprises one continuous genetic cluster, and among the landscape hypotheses tested, gene flow was found to be correlated with resistance gradients for two topographic factors, slope aspect and topographic complexity, rather than geographical distance or barriers. Gene flow was inferred to be facilitated by easterly slope aspect and to be constrained by topographically complex landscapes. These factors are related to benign microclimatic conditions for both the pandas and the food resources they rely on and more accessible topographic conditions for movement, respectively. We identified optimal corridors based on these results, aiming to promote gene flow between human-induced habitat fragments. These findings provide insight into the permeability and affinities of giant panda habitats and offer important reference for the conservation of the giant panda and its habitat.
Project description:Gut microbes can enhance the ability of hosts to consume secondary plant compounds and, therefore, expand the dietary niche breadth of mammalian herbivores. The giant and red pandas are bamboo-eating specialists within the mammalian order Carnivora. Bamboo contains abundant plant secondary metabolites (e.g., cyanide-containing compounds). However, Carnivora species, including the giant panda, have deficient levels of rhodanese (one of the essential cyanide detoxification enzymes) in their tissues compared with the same tissues of herbivores. Here, we make a comparative analysis of 94 gut metagenomes, including 25 from bamboo-eating pandas (19 from giant pandas and 6 from red pandas), 30 from Père David's deer, and 39 from published data for other mammals. The bamboo-eating pandas' gut microbiomes had some common features, such as high proportions of Pseudomonas bacteria. The results revealed that bamboo-eating pandas' gut microbiomes were significantly enriched in putative genes coding for enzymes related to cyanide degradation (e.g., rhodanese) compared with the gut microbiomes of typical herbivorous mammals, which might have coevolved with their special bamboo diets. The enrichment of putative cyanide-digesting gut microbes, in combination with adaptations related to morphology (e.g., pseudothumbs) and genomic signatures, show that the giant panda and red panda have evolved some common traits to adapt to their bamboo diet.IMPORTANCE The giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) and red panda (Ailurus fulgens), two obligate bamboo feeders, have distinct phylogenetic positions in the order Carnivora. Bamboo is extraordinarily rich in plant secondary metabolites, such as allied phenolic and polyphenolic compounds and even toxic cyanide compounds. Here, the enrichment of putative cyanide-digesting gut microbes, in combination with adaptations related to morphology (e.g., pseudothumbs) and genomic signatures, show that the giant panda and red panda have evolved some common traits to adapt to their bamboo diet. Thus, here is another story of diet-driven gut microbiota in nature.
Project description:Climate change might pose an additional threat to the already vulnerable giant panda (<i>Ailuropoda melanoleuca</i>). Effective conservation efforts require projections of vulnerability of the giant panda in facing climate change and proactive strategies to reduce emerging climate-related threats. We used the maximum entropy model to assess the vulnerability of giant panda to climate change in the Qinling Mountains of China. The results of modeling included the following findings: (1) the area of suitable habitat for giant pandas was projected to decrease by 281 km<sup>2</sup> from climate change by the 2050s; (2) the mean elevation of suitable habitat of giant panda was predicted to shift 30 m higher due to climate change over this period; (3) the network of nature reserves protect 61.73% of current suitable habitat for the species, and 59.23% of future suitable habitat; (4) current suitable habitat mainly located in Chenggu, Taibai, and Yangxian counties (with a total area of 987 km<sup>2</sup>) was predicted to be vulnerable. Assessing the vulnerability of giant panda provided adaptive strategies for conservation programs and national park construction. We proposed adaptation strategies to ameliorate the predicted impacts of climate change on giant panda, including establishing and adjusting reserves, establishing habitat corridors, improving adaptive capacity to climate change, and strengthening monitoring of giant panda.