Conservation Genetics

, 7:563 | Cite as

Phylogeography and Pleistocene demographic history of the endangered marsh deer (Blastocerus dichotomus) from the Río de la Plata Basin

  • Alejandro MárquezEmail author
  • J. E. Maldonado
  • S. González
  • M. D. Beccaceci
  • J. E. Garcia
  • J. M. B. Duarte


The marsh deer is the largest neotropical cervid with morphological and ecological adaptations to wetlands and riparian habitats. Historically, this now endangered species occupied habitats along the major river basins in South America, ranging from southern Amazonia into northern Argentina to the Paraná river delta. This particularly close association with wetlands makes marsh deer an excellent species for studying the effects of Pleistocene climatic changes on their demographic and phylogeographic patterns. We examined mitochondrial DNA variation in 127 marsh deer from 4 areas distributed throughout the Río de la Plata basin. We found 17 haplotypes in marsh deer from Brazil, Bolivia and Argentina that differed by 1–8 substitutions in a 601 bp fragment of mitochondrial control region sequence, and 486 bp of cytochrome b revealed only 3 variable sites that defined 4 haplotypes. Phylogeny and distribution of control region haplotypes suggest that populations close to the Pantanal area in central Brazil underwent a rapid population expansion and that this occurred approximately 28,000–25,000 years BP. Paleoclimatic data from this period suggests that there was a dramatic increase for precipitation in the medium latitudes in South America and these conditions may have fostered marsh deer’s population growth.


Blastocerus dichotomus cervidae conservation mitochondrial DNA phylogeography 



Part of this research was supported by Programa de Desarrollo de Ciencias Básicas (PEDECIBA) from Uruguay, Brazilian deer Project funded by CESP, and through the Program ERBI18CT980262 (XII INCO – European Community), Friends of the National Zoo and the Smithsonian’s Genetic Program and Comisión Sectorial de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) from Uruguay (Project “Biología y Conservación de Cérvidos Neotropicales”). We also thank M. García Ramos, T. Waller and R. Domingo Cabrera for their help during the field campaigns in Iberá; to D. Varela who supplied information from Delta del Paraná marsh deer population and M. L. Merino for providing samples form the Mastozoological Collection of La Plata Museum, to M. Franco for laboratory assistance, and to K. Maldonado for assistance with the English translation of the manuscript. We thank the Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (IBAMA) for granting permits for sample collections in Brazil.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alejandro Márquez
    • 1
    Email author
  • J. E. Maldonado
    • 2
  • S. González
    • 1
  • M. D. Beccaceci
    • 3
  • J. E. Garcia
    • 4
  • J. M. B. Duarte
    • 5
  1. 1.División Citogenética-IIBCEUnidad Asociada a Facultad de CienciasMontevideoUruguay
  2. 2.Genetics Program, National Museum of Natural HistorySmithsonian InstitutionWashingtonUSA
  3. 3.Instituto de Medio Ambiente y EcologíaUniversidad del Salvador.Capital Federal, Buenos AiresArgentina
  4. 4.Departamento de BioquímicaUniversidade Estadual de LondrinaLondrinaBrasil
  5. 5.Departamento de ZootecniaFCAV/UNESPJaboticabalBrazil

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