, Volume 14, Issue 5, pp 943-951
Date: 09 Apr 2013

Mitochondrial DNA and microsatellite loci data supporting a management plan for a critically endangered lizard from Brazil

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Endemic and endangered species are highly vulnerable to habitat perturbations and may be subject to variations in their population size. Management plan for these species is crucial to avoid population decline, loss of genetic variability, inbreeding and ultimately extinction. The sand lizard, Liolaemus lutzae, is endemic to a habitat of sandy coastal plain (restinga). Its geographical distribution extends for only 200 km stretch of the coast of Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil, one of South America’s most densely populated regions. Extensive development and degradation of the beaches where the species inhabits, have led to the species becoming critically endangered. We used mitochondrial DNA sequences and microsatellite loci to resolve patterns of population connectivity and genetic variation within the species in order to provide a platform for a species management plan. Our results indicate the existence of three main populations, separated from each other by the Guanabara Bay and by the Arraial do Cabo Peninsula. The low microsatellite genetic variation and heterozygosity witnessed in each of the three populations, together with high levels of inbreeding and low effective population sizes suggest that the species is in urgent need of intensive management. Based on the results of this study we propose strong measures to protect existing restinga fragments and the implementation of programmes of captive breeding and reintroduction of individuals from the heavily threatened regions to protected refugia. Such measures may be the only way of ensuring the continuity of the species.

William C. Jordan—Deceased.