Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Non-invasive conservation genetics of the golden-crowned sifaka (Propithecus tattersalli)

In January 2009 Conservation Genetics published an article titled Non-invasive conservation genetics of the critically endangered golden-crowned sifaka (Propithecus tattersalli): high diversity and significant genetic differentiation over a small range  on a study led by French researcher Erwan Quéméré. Tatterall's sifaka, or the golden-crowned sifaka, is a critically endangered species of lemur found in the Daraina region of Madagascar. The only behavioral study published on P. tattersalli (Meyers 1993; see Vargas 2002) found that the lemurs live in social groups of 3-10 individuals in a territories 9-10 hectares large. Quéméré et al. undertook the study in response to conservation concerns that human deforestation, gold mining initiatives and the paving of a national road could bring significant ecological changes to the region. The study had four goals: (a) to identify genetically differentiated populations, (b) to determine diversity of P. tattersalli populations, to discuss resistance of the populations against forest fragmentation and (d) to identify specific conservation methods. 

Quéméré et al. sampled feces from 82 individuals over a period of three months during the summer of 2006. The DNA samples were then genotyped at 13 microsatellite loci to determine levels of diversity among the three areas of forrest fragmentation. The study found that a high level of genetic diversity in P. tattersalli populations despite high levels of habitat defragmentation and a narrow population distribution. Results indicate the P. tattersalli groups are able to successfully use small forest patches between the three larger forest fragments to migrate, in spite of the national road. In conclusion the authors stress a greater need to maintain such corridors and forest patches between forest fragments, in addition to the need of research teams to explore genetic diversity outside of the three observed zones of forest fragmentation. 

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