When landscape modification is advantageous for protected species. The case of a synanthropic tarantula, Brachypelma vagans
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Landscape fragmentation usually has a considerable effect on the genetic and demographic viability of most species because it reduces population size and increases isolation among populations. This situation provokes loss of genetic diversity and increased inbreeding that can lead to population or species extinctions. Some studies also show that landscape fragmentation may have no effect on or even positive consequences for species genetic diversity. The protected tarantula, Brachypelma vagans, exhibits a particular situation in the Mexican Caribbean, which has experienced high lowland and coastal fragmentation because of recent increases in agricultural, urban and touristic development. This modified landscape structure creates favorable conditions for establishment of B. vagans populations in rural settlements. Populations of this tarantula have high densities of individuals, principally females and juveniles, and gene dispersion is assumed by the rare males. Within this context, we studied the influence of natural and anthropogenic fragmentation on the genetic diversity of six B. vagans populations (five continental, one insular), together with their spatial organization. Our approach used seven inter simple sequence repeat markers, which are highly polymorphic markers. The 76 loci selected revealed high genetic variability for continental populations and a low, but not critical situation, for the insular population. We detected a good level of gene exchange among continental populations, and an evident and recent isolation of the island population. This species exhibits a metapopulation structure in the lowlands with numerous local populations where mature females exhibit high birth site fidelity. We conclude that this protected species does not exhibit characteristics to warrant its current conservation status, and we propose complete revision of the ecological and genetic situation for B. vagans in particular, and for all species within the genus Brachypelma in general.