MtDNA reveals strong genetic differentiation among geographically isolated populations of the golden brown mouse lemur, Microcebus ravelobensis
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Microcebus ravelobensis is an endangered nocturnal primate endemic to northwestern Madagascar. This part of the island is subject to extensive human intervention leading to massive habitat destruction and fragmentation. We investigated the degree of genetic differentiation among remaining populations using mitochondrial control region sequences (479–482 bases). Nine populations were sampled from the hypothesized geographic range. The region is composed of three inter-river systems (IRSs). Samples were collected in three areas of continuous forests (CFs) and six isolated forest fragments (IFFs) of different sizes. We identified 27 haplotypes in 114 animals, with CFs and IFFs harbouring 5–6 and 1–3 haplotypes, respectively. All IFFs were significantly differentiated from each other with high ΦST values and sets of unique haplotypes. The rivers constitute significant dispersal barriers with over 82% of the molecular variation being attributed to the divergence among the IRSs. The data suggest a deep and so far unknown split within the rufous mouse lemurs of northwestern Madagascar. The limited data base and the lack of ecological and morphological data do not allow definite taxonomic classification at this stage. However, the results clearly indicate that M. ravelobensis consists of three evolutionary significant units, possibly cryptic species, which warrant urgent and separate conservation efforts.
KeywordsPrimates Madagascar Genetic diversity Habitat fragmentation Cryptic species
We would like to thank the following institutions and persons for their support and the permissions to conduct the necessary fieldwork in Madagascar: Le Ministère des Eaux et Forêts, Chantal Andrianarivo (ANGAP), University of Antananarivo (Olga Ramilijaona and Daniel Rakotondravony), and the late Berthe Rakotosamimanana. For help and assistance in the field, we thank Mathias Craul, Jean-Aimé Rakotonirina, Todisoa Razafimamonjy. Many thanks go to all students and colleagues who helped collecting samples over the course of the last 4 years and especially to Pia Braune, Nicole Hagenah, Kathrin Marquart, Romule Rakotondravony, Blanchard Randrianambinina, Solofo Rasoloharijaona, and Andrea Weidt. We are very grateful to Elke Zimmermann for her constant support during the course of the work. We thank Lounès Chikhi and Mike Bruford for the helpful comments on the analyses and the manuscript. K.G. thanks Heike Pröhl for valuable discussions. Thanks go to the Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, UK, for providing molecular facilities for part of the study. The manuscript was greatly improved by the comments of two anonymous reviewers. The study was financially supported by DFG (Ra 502/7-1) and Conservation International. We also gratefully acknowledge the Scholarship of the German National Academic Foundation for the financial support of K.G. throughout the study and especially during the fieldwork in Madagascar.
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