Identifying the true number of specimens of the extinct blue antelope (Hippotragus leucophaeus).
ABSTRACT: Native to southern Africa, the blue antelope (Hippotragus leucophaeus) is the only large African mammal species known to have become extinct in historical times. However, it was poorly documented prior to its extinction?~?1800 AD, and many of the small number of museum specimens attributed to it are taxonomically contentious. This places limitations on our understanding of its morphology, ecology, and the mechanisms responsible for its demise. We retrieved genetic information from ten of the sixteen putative blue antelope museum specimens using both shotgun sequencing and mitochondrial genome target capture in an attempt to resolve the uncertainty surrounding the identification of these specimens. We found that only four of the ten investigated specimens, and not a single skull, represent the blue antelope. This indicates that the true number of historical museum specimens of the blue antelope is even smaller than previously thought, and therefore hardly any reference material is available for morphometric, comparative and genetic studies. Our study highlights how genetics can be used to identify rare species in natural history collections where other methods may fail or when records are scarce. Additionally, we present an improved mitochondrial reference genome for the blue antelope as well as one complete and two partial mitochondrial genomes. A first analysis of these mitochondrial genomes indicates low levels of maternal genetic diversity in the 'museum population', possibly confirming previous results that blue antelope population size was already low at the time of the European colonization of South Africa.
Project description:Babesiosis in a sable antelope (Hippotragus niger Harris, 1838) was first reported in 1930; the parasite was named Babesia irvinesmithi. Recently, specimens from an adult sable that presented with a sudden onset of disease and that subsequently died during immobilization were submitted for molecular characterization. Microscopic examination of thin blood smears revealed the presence of small piroplasms. DNA was extracted from blood samples; the V4 variable region of the 18S rRNA gene was amplified and analyzed using the reverse line blot (RLB) assay. Amplicons did not hybridize with any of the Babesia or Theileria species-specific probes present on the blot and hybridized only with a Babesia or Theileria genus-specific probe, suggesting the presence of a novel species. The full-length 18S rRNA gene sequence was obtained and aligned with published sequences of related genera, and phylogenetic trees were constructed. Sequence similarity analyses indicated that a Babesia species, designated Babesia sp. (sable), was present. The sequence showed its highest similarity to B. orientalis and to an unnamed Babesia species previously detected in bovine samples. The latter was later established to be Babesia occultans. A Babesia sp. (sable)-specific RLB oligonucleotide probe was designed and used to screen 200 South African sable samples, but so far, no other sample has been found to be positive for the presence of Babesia sp. (sable) DNA. In summary, we identified a novel piroplasm parasite from a sable antelope that died from an unknown illness. While the parasite was observed in blood smears, there is no direct evidence that it was the cause of death.
Project description:Understanding the reproductive biology of the roan antelope (Hippotragus equinus) (É. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1803) is crucial to optimise breeding success in captive breeding programmes of this threatened species. In this study, the pattern of faecal androgen metabolite (fAM) production related to reproductive events (calving or birthing, mating, gestation, and lactation), sexual behaviours as well as environmental cues were studied in captive adult male roan antelope. Faecal sample collection and behavioural observations were carried out from August 2017 to July 2018 for three reproductive males participating in a conservation breeding programme at the Lapalala Wilderness Nature Reserve in South Africa. As a prerequisite, the enzyme immunoassay used in this study was biologically validated for the species by demonstrating a significant difference between fAM concentrations in non-breeding adults, breeding adults and juvenile males. Results revealed that in adults males, the overall mean fAM levels were 73% higher during the breeding period compared to the non-breeding periods, and 85% higher when exclusively compared to the lactation/gestation periods, but only 5.3% higher when compared to the birthing period. Simultaneously, fAM concentrations were lower during the wet season compared to the dry season, increasing with a reduction in photoperiod. With the exception of courtship, frequencies of sexual behaviours monitored changed in accordance with individual mean fAM concentrations in male roan antelope, the findings suggest that androgen production varies with the occurrence of mating activity and may be influenced by photoperiod but not with rainfall.
Project description:Pathogen DNA was isolated from roan antelope (Hippotragus equinus), sable antelope (Hippotragus niger), greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros), and common gray duiker (Sylvicapra grimmia) in South Africa whose deaths were attributed to either theileriosis or cytauxzoonosis. We developed Theileria species-specific probes used in combination with reverse line blot hybridization assays and identified three different species of Theileria in four African antelope species. The close phylogenetic relationship between members of the genera Theileria and Cytauxzoon, similarities in the morphologies of developmental stages, and confusion in the literature regarding theileriosis or cytauxzoonosis are discussed.
Project description:As we enter the sixth mass extinction, many species that are no longer self-sustaining in their natural habitat will require ex situ management. Zoos have finite resources for ex situ management, and there is a need for holistic conservation programs between the public and private sector. Ex situ populations of sable antelope, Hippotragus niger, have existed in zoos and privately owned ranches in North America since the 1910s. Unknown founder representation and relatedness has made the genetic management of this species challenging within zoos, while populations on privately owned ranches are managed independently and retain minimal-to-no pedigree history. Consequences of such challenges include an increased risk of inbreeding and a loss of genetic diversity. Here, we developed and applied a customized targeted sequence capture panel based on 5,000 genomewide single-nucleotide polymorphisms to investigate the genomic diversity present in these uniquely managed populations. We genotyped 111 sable antelope: 23 from zoos, 43 from a single conservation center, and 45 from ranches. We found significantly higher genetic diversity and significantly lower inbreeding in herds housed in zoos and conservation centers, when compared to those in privately owned ranches, likely due to genetic-based breeding recommendations implemented in the former populations. Genetic clustering was strong among all three populations, possibly as a result of genetic drift. We propose that the North American ex situ population of sable antelope would benefit from a metapopulation management system, to halt genetic drift, reduce the occurrence of inbreeding, and enable sustainable population sizes to be managed ex situ.
Project description:In this study, Brucella melitensis infection in sable antelope (Hippotragus niger) was investigated on two wildlife ranches in South Africa over a 12-year period in order to determine the origin of the outbreaks and the role of livestock in maintaining the disease. Retrospective data were obtained from farm records and interviews as well as samples tested from different disease scenarios and clinical settings. On one ranch, 10 of 74 sable tested seropositive for B. melitensis in 2004 but were certified clear of infection after no further brucellosis cases were detected following repeated serological tests and culling over a five-year period. Recrudescence occurred in 2013 (7 of 187 brucellosis positives) and in 2014 (one positive), with persistent, latent infection being the most reasonable explanation. In a second case study, linked to the first one through a common vendor, 15 of 80 sable tested positive in 2016, some five years after the acquisition of the animals from a putative source. Brucella melitensis biovar 1 and/or 3 were isolated from each outbreak on both ranches. Both outbreaks resulted in substantial losses for the owners, arising from testing and culling and significant resource expenditure by the state. The study identified the diagnostic challenges for identifying and resolving disease outbreaks in wildlife, the persistence of B. melitensis in sable, the risks associated with animal movements, and the need for a wildlife-sensitive disease control scheme. Although the actual source of infection could not be identified, the investigation points away from local livestock as a source of ongoing infection while the persistent infection is consistent with the disease circulating within small, ranched populations and being spread through the keeping and trading of high-value animals. The implications of the study findings to disease control in wildlife are discussed.
Project description:The complete genome sequences of Mandrillus leucophaeus and Papio ursinus cytomegaloviruses were determined. An isolate from a drill monkey, OCOM6-2, and an isolate from a chacma baboon, OCOM4-52, were subjected to pyrosequencing and assembled. Comparative alignment of published primate cytomegaloviruses (CMVs) showed variable sequence conservation between species.
Project description:Biological diversity is being lost at unprecedented rates, with genetic admixture and introgression presenting major threats to biodiversity. Our ability to accurately identify introgression is critical to manage species, obtain insights into evolutionary processes, and ultimately contribute to the Aichi Targets developed under the Convention on Biological Diversity. The current study concerns roan antelope, the second largest antelope in Africa. Despite their large size, these antelope are sensitive to habitat disturbance and interspecific competition, leading to the species being listed as Least Concern but with decreasing population trends, and as extinct over parts of its range. Molecular research identified the presence of two evolutionary significant units across their sub-Saharan range, corresponding to a West African lineage and a second larger group which includes animals from East, Central and Southern Africa. Within South Africa, one of the remaining bastions with increasing population sizes, there are a number of West African roan antelope populations on private farms, and concerns are that these animals hybridize with roan that naturally occur in the southern African region. We used a suite of 27 microsatellite markers to conduct admixture analysis. Our results indicate evidence of hybridization, with our developed tests using a simulated dataset being able to accurately identify F1, F2 and non-admixed individuals at threshold values of qi > 0.80 and qi > 0.85. However, further backcrosses were not always detectable with backcrossed-Western roan individuals (46.7-60%), backcrossed-East, Central and Southern African roan individuals (28.3-45%) and double backcrossed (83.3-98.3%) being incorrectly classified as non-admixed. Our study is the first to confirm ongoing hybridization in this within this iconic African antelope, and we provide recommendations for the future conservation and management of this species.