Conservation Genetics

, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 441–451

Complete loss of MHC genetic diversity in the Common Hamster (Cricetus cricetus) population in The Netherlands. Consequences for conservation strategies


DOI: 10.1023/A:1024767114707

Cite this article as:
Smulders, M., Snoek, L., Booy, G. et al. Conservation Genetics (2003) 4: 441. doi:10.1023/A:1024767114707


The Common Hamster (Cricetus cricetus L.)has suffered from changes in agriculturalpractices. In some Western European countriesthe populations have become so small andscattered that they are threatened withextinction. We studied the genetic diversity ofmitochondrial and major histoincompatibilitycomplex (MHC) loci in the few animals left inthe South of the Netherlands and in threeanimals from the Alsace region in France, andcompared it to the diversity in Dutch animalsin the past (samples taken from stuffed animalsin museum collections dating back to the period1924–1956) and in a large present-daypopulation from Czech Republic. For themitochondrial cytochrome b gene, SNP mappingdemonstrated a total of nine alleles among 14Czech samples, of which one (possibly two) waspresent in the Dutch museum samples, and onlyone in the current Dutch animals. For the MHCgenes, DQA exon 2 and 3 showed no variation,while 14 different alleles were found at DRBexon 2. The Czech population contained 13different alleles in 15 animals sampled, andmost animals were heterozygous (Ho = 0.80,He = 0.91). Therefore, the solitary livingHamster maintains, in nature, a large diversityat this MHC locus. The Dutch museum samplescontained eight different alleles in 20 samples, and they were slightly less heterozygous (Ho = 0.60, He = 0.75). All but one ofthese alleles were also found in the Czechsamples. In contrast, the present Dutch andFrench animals (a total of 16 samples)contained only one of these alleles, and allanimals were genetically identical andhomozygous. We conclude that the remaininganimals have lost all diversity at this MHClocus. This is probably the result of a severebottleneck, which may have been quite severe,reducing diversity in many loci. In addition,the remaining Dutch animals are partly derivedfrom one family. These animals are now part ofa breeding program. Options for restocking thegenetic diversity are discussed.

Cytochrome b DRB haplotype inbreeding major histocompatibility locus MHC SNP subspecies 

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • M.J.M. Smulders
    • 1
  • L.B. Snoek
    • 1
  • G. Booy
    • 1
  • B. Vosman
    • 1
  1. 1.Plant Research InternationalAA WageningenThe Netherlands

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