European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 53, Issue 4, pp 298–303

Distribution of haplotypes and microsatellite alleles among Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) in Thailand


    • Leibniz-Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research
  • Dietmar Lieckfeldt
    • Leibniz-Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research
  • Parntep Ratanakorn
    • Faculty of Veterinary ScienceMahidol University
  • Christian Pitra
    • Leibniz-Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10344-007-0099-x

Cite this article as:
Fickel, J., Lieckfeldt, D., Ratanakorn, P. et al. Eur J Wildl Res (2007) 53: 298. doi:10.1007/s10344-007-0099-x


Habitat fragmentation often promotes increased inbreeding depression due to interrupted gene flow between populations. In this study, we demonstrate that Asian elephants most likely also suffer from outbreeding depression due to cryptic speciation. We analysed mitochondrial and nuclear DNA loci from 78 Asian elephants. Haplotype genealogy and analysis of molecular variance revealed two matrilinear clades (αh, βh). Microsatellite analyses of individuals grouped according to their haplotype clade (corresponding group of nuclear genotypes called αnuc and βnuc) revealed significant genotypic differentiation between αnuc and βnuc. Such genealogically differentiated forms in a morphologically uniform species are considered indicative of cryptic speciation. The differentiation was caused by bulls, whereas considering cows only resulted in no differentiation. Such result is best explained by Haldane’s rule whereby hybrid formation between genealogical forms causes lower viability and fertility of heterogametic hybrids. Although the lack of hybrid-specific morphological characteristics renders direct testing of reduced hybrid fitness under natural conditions unfeasible, the effects of Haldane’s rule are demonstrated by reduced male-mediated gene flow between genealogical forms under sympatric conditions, as was indeed suggested by the data found in Asian elephants: male-mediated gene flow between groups αnuc and βnuc was much lower than female-mediated gene flow.


HaplotypeMicrosatellitesSpeciationHaldane’s rule

Supplementary material

10344_2007_99_MOESM1_ESM.doc (140 kb)
Supplement 1MtDNA haplotypes and nDNA genotypes of 78 Asian elephants from Thailand (DOC 142 kb).
10344_2007_99_MOESM2_ESM.doc (26 kb)
Supplement 2Absolute allele frequencies (f) at 7 microsatellite loci in the two Asian elephant groups αnuc (14 bulls, 25 cows) and βnuc (12 bulls, 27 cows) (DOC 26.1 kb).

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007