Potential genetic consequences of a recent bottleneck in the Amur tiger of
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- Russello, M.A., Gladyshev, E., Miquelle, D. et al. Conservation Genetics (2004) 5: 707. doi:10.1007/s10592-004-1860-2
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The Amur tiger, Panthera tigris altaica, is a highly endangered felid whose range and population size has been severely reduced in recent times. At present, the wild population is estimated at 490 individuals, having rebounded from the 20–30 tigers remaining following a severe bottleneck in the 1940's. The current study presents preliminary data on the patterns and levels of genetic variation in the mitochondrial DNA control region using DNA extracted from non-invasively sampled faecal material, collected throughout the entire range of P. t. altaica in the Russian Far East. Analysis of 82 scat samples representing at least 27 individuals revealed extremely low levels of CR haplotype diversity, characterized by a single widespread haplotype (96.4%) and two rare variants, each differing by a single step within the hypervariable I (2.4%) and central conserved regions (1.2%), respectively. A comparison with previous data on cytochrome bvariation in 14 captive individuals revealed a potentially greater amount of genetic variation represented in captivity relative to that found in the wild population. The extremely low levels of mitochondrial DNA variation in the wild population is discussed in light of the demographic processes that might have shaped these patterns as well as the potential bias introduced through analysis of fecal samples. These results highlight the continuing need to assess levels of genetic variation even in recovering populations that are increasing in number and underscore the important role that captive breeding programs may play in preserving remnant genetic diversity of endangered species.