, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 1435-1443

Molecular assessment of population differentiation and individual assignment potential of Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) populations

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Abstract

Conservation and management of widespread species can be improved if populations exhibiting genetic differentiation are recognized as local management units. Specimens of Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) corresponding to major river drainage systems from Eastern Africa and Madagascar, and a small set of samples from Western Africa, were analyzed using multilocus genotyping to evaluate the potential to discriminate among locations and to assign individuals to population of origin. Populations from all sampled regions exhibited marked levels of genetic and genotypic differentiation as assessed by significant F ST values and Bayesian analysis of population structure. At the regional level, the majority (94%) of all specimens were successfully assigned to the population of origin using only four microsatellite loci. Three populations sampled within Madagascar required the use of 12 loci for successful assignment of greater than 84%. Our findings demonstrate a need for alternative management strategies that consider the biogeographic sub-structuring of Nile crocodiles associated with major river drainages in Africa and Madagascar.