Genetic diversity and population structure in the endangered giant otter, Pteronura brasiliensis
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- Pickles, R.S.A., Groombridge, J.J., Rojas, V.D.Z. et al. Conserv Genet (2012) 13: 235. doi:10.1007/s10592-011-0279-9
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We assessed levels of genetic diversity and investigated patterns of population structure in three remnant populations of the endangered giant otter, Pteronura brasiliensis, using microsatellite loci. All populations displayed moderate to low levels of heterozygosity and allelic richness (HO 0.56–0.57, AR 4.00–5.15) and effective population sizes were low (NE 10.8–54) although only the Iténez population exhibited the signature of a genetic bottleneck. Population structure analyses revealed a pattern in which the populations of the Upper Amazon, Orinoco and Essequibo drainages comprised partially differentiated segments of a northern South American metapopulation, whereas the population of the Iténez appeared isolated. The observed patterns are congruent with previous mitochondrial DNA analysis which suggested the Iténez and northern South American groups constitute two evolutionary significant units. The results presented here should be considered in planning future policies aiming to manage the recovery of the giant otter across its range.