Conservation Genetics

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 1435–1443 | Cite as

Molecular assessment of population differentiation and individual assignment potential of Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) populations

  • Evon R. Hekkala
  • George Amato
  • Rob DeSalle
  • Michael J. Blum
Research Article


Conservation and management of widespread species can be improved if populations exhibiting genetic differentiation are recognized as local management units. Specimens of Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) corresponding to major river drainage systems from Eastern Africa and Madagascar, and a small set of samples from Western Africa, were analyzed using multilocus genotyping to evaluate the potential to discriminate among locations and to assign individuals to population of origin. Populations from all sampled regions exhibited marked levels of genetic and genotypic differentiation as assessed by significant F ST values and Bayesian analysis of population structure. At the regional level, the majority (94%) of all specimens were successfully assigned to the population of origin using only four microsatellite loci. Three populations sampled within Madagascar required the use of 12 loci for successful assignment of greater than 84%. Our findings demonstrate a need for alternative management strategies that consider the biogeographic sub-structuring of Nile crocodiles associated with major river drainages in Africa and Madagascar.


Nile crocodile Crocodylus niloticus Genetic variation Population divergence Management units African biogeography 



This research was supported by the United States Environmental Protection Agency STAR Fellowship program, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Center for Environmental Research and Conservation (CERC) at Columbia University. We thank the Disney Conservation Fund and National Geographic Television for financial and logistical support for field work and sample collection in Madagascar. Additionally, we would like to thank Richard Ferguson for his crocodile wrangling expertise and for collecting the East African samples, Alison Leslie for South African samples, Tara Shine for Western Saharan samples and Gerardo Garcia for Ankarana cave samples. Thanks also to Nancy FitzSimmons and Jake Gratten for making available their unpublished microsatellite primers. Special thanks to the Blum Lab at Tulane University for comments on the manuscript and to Mark Siddall for field assistance and logistical support in Madagascar.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Evon R. Hekkala
    • 1
    • 3
  • George Amato
    • 1
  • Rob DeSalle
    • 2
  • Michael J. Blum
    • 3
  1. 1.Sackler Institute for Conservation GeneticsAmerican Museum of Natural HistoryNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Invertebrate ZoologyAmerican Museum of Natural HistoryNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyTulane UniversityNew OrleansUSA

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