Original Paper

European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 59, Issue 2, pp 215-225

A genetically distinct lion (Panthera leo) population from Ethiopia

  • Susann BrucheAffiliated withNational Heart and Lung Institute, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College LondonResearch Group Molecular Ecology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology Email author 
  • , Markus GussetAffiliated withLeipzig ZooWildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford
  • , Sebastian LippoldAffiliated withResearch Group Molecular Ecology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
  • , Ross BarnettAffiliated withDepartment of Archaeology, Durham University
  • , Klaus EulenbergerAffiliated withLeipzig Zoo
  • , Jörg JunholdAffiliated withLeipzig Zoo
  • , Carlos A. DriscollAffiliated withWildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford
  • , Michael HofreiterAffiliated withResearch Group Molecular Ecology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary AnthropologyDepartment of Biology, The University of York

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Abstract

Lion (Panthera leo) numbers are in serious decline and two of only a handful of evolutionary significant units have already become extinct in the wild. However, there is continued debate about the genetic distinctiveness of different lion populations, a discussion delaying the initiation of conservation actions for endangered populations. Some lions from Ethiopia are phenotypically distinct from other extant lions in that the males possess an extensive dark mane. In this study, we investigated the microsatellite variation over ten loci in 15 lions from Addis Ababa Zoo in Ethiopia. A comparison with six wild lion populations identifies the Addis Ababa lions as being not only phenotypically but also genetically distinct from other lions. In addition, a comparison of the mitochondrial cytochrome b (CytB) gene sequence of these lions to sequences of wild lions of different origins supports the notion of their genetic uniqueness. Our examination of the genetic diversity of this captive lion population shows little effect of inbreeding. Immediate conservation actions, including a captive breeding programme designed to conserve genetic diversity and maintain the lineage, are urgently needed to preserve this unique lion population.

Keywords

Addis Ababa Captive breeding Cytochrome B Ethiopia Lion Microsatellites Zoo