, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 205-215

Genetic variation across the current range of the Asian houbara bustard (Chlamydotis undulata macqueenii)

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Abstract

The houbara bustard (Chlamydotisundulata), the main quarry for Arab falconry,is currently threatened by excessive huntingand poaching as well as by habitat loss andfragmentation. We have investigated the geneticdiversity, population structure and demographichistory of houbara bustards across theirgeographical range by analyzing mitochondrial(mt)DNA sequences (a 370 bp fragment of controlregion I and a 264 bp fragment of thecytochrome b gene) and 4 microsatelliteloci in 74 individuals sampled from the CanaryIslands to China. Both markers revealed low tomoderate diversity that could be partitionedinto two monophyletic groups or evolutionarysignificant units belonging to the NorthAfrican (C. u. undulata) and Asian (C. u. macqueenii) subspecies. A history ofrelatively recent population growth (∼35,000years ago) accompanied by range expansion isthe most likely demographic scenario for theAsian subspecies. In addition, Macqueen'sbustards are able to disperse efficiently overbroad areas, which is consistent with ourinference of weak phylogeographic structure(global F ST = 0.20 and 0.04 formtDNA and microsatellites, respectively) andhigh levels of homogenizing gene flow on widegeographical scales. We therefore suggest thatmanagement actions should focus on maintainingmigratory connectivity between breeding andnon-breeding areas.