Conservation Genetics

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 599–610 | Cite as

Delimitation of evolutionary units in Cuvier’s dwarf caiman, Paleosuchus palpebrosus (Cuvier, 1807): insights from conservation of a broadly distributed species

  • F. L. MunizEmail author
  • Z. Campos
  • S. M. Hernández Rangel
  • J. G. Martínez
  • B. C. Souza
  • B. De Thoisy
  • R. Botero-Arias
  • T. Hrbek
  • I. P. Farias
Research Article


An important goal of evolutionary and conservation biology is the identification of units below the species level, such as Evolutionarily Significant Units (ESUs), providing objectively delimited units for species conservation and management. In this study we tested the hypothesis that Cuvier’s dwarf caiman (Paleosuchus palpebrosus)—a species broadly distributed across several biomes and watersheds of South America—is comprised of different ESUs. We analyzed mitochondrial cytochrome b sequences of 206 individuals and 532 unlinked ddRAD loci of 20 individuals chosen from amongst the mitochondrial haplogroups. Analysis of the cytochrome b sequences revealed four mitochondrial clusters, while STRUCTURE analysis of ddRAD loci detected three genomic clusters with different levels of mixture between them. Using the Adaptive Evolutionary Conservation (AEC) framework we identified three ESUs: “Amazon”, “Madeira-Bolivia” and “Pantanal”; one of them composed of two different Management Units (MUs), “Madeira” and “Bolivia”. In general, based on the comparisons with other crocodilian species, genetic diversity of each lineage was moderate however, the Madeira MU showed fivefold lower genetic diversity than other geographic groups. Considering the particularities of each Paleosuchus palpebrosus conservation unit, we recommend that the conservation status of each is evaluated separately. Tropical biodiversity is largely underestimated and in this context the broadly distributed species are the most likely candidates to harbor distinct evolutionary lineages. Thus, we suggest that conservation research should not neglect species that are generally considered of Least Concern by IUCN due to the taxon’s broad geographic distribution.


Evolutionarily significant unit Management unit Genetic diversity DdRADseq Cytochrome b Gene flow 



This study would have been impossible without the people who helped with the field collections: Daniel Martins, Dênis Tilcara, Deyla Oliveira, José Augusto da Silva, Manoel Rodrigues, Pedro Almeida, Tânia Sanaiotti, Valéria Machado and William Vasconcelos; or without Guto Ruffeil who deposited samples in the CTGA/UFAM tissue collection. We are also thankful to Mitchell Eaton for additional information about Osteolaemus species. This project was approved by Embrapa ethics committee under the Permit no. 009/2016 and the caimans were captured under License no. 13048-1 granted by the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA). In French Guiana, the species is not protected and sampling does not require license. This study was financed by the following Grants: CNPq/CT-Amazon Project no. 575603/2008-9 awarded to IPF, CNPq Project no. 482662/2013-1 to TH, and CNPq Project no. 470383/2007-0 and 479179/2014 to ZC. We are also grateful for the additional financial and logistical support from Embrapa Pantanal (Macroprogram 3), Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (INPA), Fundect, O Boticário Foundation, Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade (ICMBio) and Santo Antônio Energia. This work is part of FM’s thesis in the Genetics, Conservation and Evolutionary Biology program of INPA/UFAM. FM is supported by a Grant from FAPEAM, and IPF and TH by a Grant from CNPq.

Supplementary material

10592_2017_1035_MOESM1_ESM.doc (76 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 76 KB)


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Animal Genetics and Evolution (LEGAL), Department of BiologyFederal University of Amazonas (UFAM)ManausBrazil
  2. 2.Graduate Program in Genetics, Conservation and Evolutionary BiologyNational Institute for Amazonian Research (INPA)ManausBrazil
  3. 3.Wildlife Laboratory, Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) PantanalCorumbáBrazil
  4. 4.Grupo de Investigación Biociencias, Facultad de Ciencias de la SaludInstitución Universitaria Colegio Mayor de AntioquiaMedellínColombia
  5. 5.Grupo de Pesquisa em Genética Molecular e Citogenética, Programa de Pós-Graduação em Biotecnologia e Recursos Naturais (MBT), Escola Superior de Ciências da SaúdeUniversidade do Estado do AmazonasManausBrazil
  6. 6.Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio)Boa VistaBrazil
  7. 7.Institut Pasteur de la GuyaneCayenneFrench Guiana
  8. 8.Association KwataCayenneFrench Guiana
  9. 9.Caiman Research in Conservation and Management ProgramInstituto Mamirauá para o Desenvolvimento SustentávelTeféBrazil
  10. 10.Department of Wildlife Ecology and ConservationUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

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