No evidence for mitochondrial genetic variability in the largest population of critically endangered Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys in Vietnam

Abstract

The Tonkin snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus avunculus) with a global population of <250 is listed as critically endangered. It is endemic to northeastern Vietnam and was feared extinct until its rediscovery in 1989. The largest single population of R. avunculus consists of 125–130 individuals in an area of forest called Khau Ca in Ha Giang Province. We used non-invasively collected fecal samples to establish the amount of genetic diversity in this population based on mitochondrial information. We amplified and sequenced a 467- to 650-bp section of the hypervariable region I (HVI) of the mitochondrial D-loop for 201 samples and reconstructed the full mitochondrial genomes for five samples based on metagenomic data. All 201 HVI sequences were identical and no variability was found in the five mitochondrial genomes. Our results highlight the immediate need for a comprehensive assessment of the genetic diversity of all populations of R. avunculus based on mitochondrial and nuclear markers. The latter need to be developed for this species.

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Acknowledgments

We thank everyone for their help, particularly the management board of the Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey Species Habitat Conservation Area at Khau Ca; Mr Hoang Van Tue, Vietnam Administration of Forestry, Southern Institute of Ecology; Mr Dan Van Khoan, his family and his team; and the Evolutionary Biology Lab (National University of Singapore). We would also like to thank AIT Biotech for facilitating the NGS sequencing.

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Correspondence to Andie Ang.

Ethics declarations

We followed the Code of Best Practices for Field Primatology (2014) and the ethical guidelines of the University of Colorado Boulder and the National University of Singapore. Research permits were obtained and we followed the rules and regulations of the Forest Protection Department of Ha Giang, the Protected Area Management Board of Khau Ca, and relevant Vietnamese authorities (permit no. 2039/TCLN-BTTN).

Funding

This research was funded by Wildlife Reserves Singapore, the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, the Beverly Sears Graduate Student Research Grant, the Scott Ferris Graduate Research Award, the Department of Anthropology Pre-Dissertation Grant, SEABIG (NUS) R-154-000-648-646 and R-154-000-648-733, and Dr Vilma D’Rozario.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest and gave final approval for publication.

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Ang, A., Srivathsan, A., Meier, R. et al. No evidence for mitochondrial genetic variability in the largest population of critically endangered Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys in Vietnam. Primates 57, 449–453 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10329-016-0571-x

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Keywords

  • Mitochondria
  • D-loop
  • Hypervariable region I
  • Colobine
  • Conservation