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Nine biomes and nine challenges for the conservation genetics of Neotropical species, the case of the vulnerable giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla)


Conservation genetics provides wildlife managers powerful tools to assist conservation planning, being recognized as an important biodiversity component. Nevertheless, communication between wildlife conservation actors is still not effective. Furthermore, wildlife conservation funds are often allocated to conservation actions incompatible with thorough long-term genetic research. In the Neotropics, the political organization of the territory, the complex socio-economic context, and the environmental heterogeneity impose additional challenges to the use of genetics for wildlife conservation. Here we present an assessment of the state-of-the-art on the conservation genetics of the giant anteater, as a study case. We use this species to discuss key wildlife threats and challenges along nine major Neotropical biomes. We review the main scientific research on the species, comprising and analyzing genetic data, and focusing on each biome and its region-specific threats. Our genetic meta-analysis reveals low levels of genetic diversity for the species, signs of population differentiation and dissimilar demographic trends per biome. Large-scale investigations are needed to disclose between hypotheses of panmixia, population structure and local adaptation, and to better assess the species demography. The limited information available for a known Vulnerable species perfectly illustrates the need for greater and internationally concerted investment in genetic/genomic research in the Neotropics. Finally, we describe the main wildlife conservation challenges per biome assessed, and present open research questions to which genetics could be of paramount importance.

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Data availability

All data used in this study is found available in Genbank database ( The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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We thank the anonymous reviewers for their valuable suggestions in earlier versions of this manuscript, and the editors and the editorial office for mediating and helping us kindly and professionally throughout the submission and review process. AFM thanks the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) for the financial support (370542/2021-5).


We declare that no funds, grants, or other support were received during the preparation of this manuscript, and we have no relevant financial or non-financial interests to disclose for this work.

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All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection and analysis were performed by AFM and SMS. The first draft of the manuscript was written by FM and SMS and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Arielli Fabrício Machado.

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Competing interests

The authors have no relevant financial or non-financial interests to disclose.

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Communicated by Alison Gonçalves Nazareno.

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Miranda, F.R., Fabrício Machado, A., Clozato, C.L. et al. Nine biomes and nine challenges for the conservation genetics of Neotropical species, the case of the vulnerable giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla). Biodivers Conserv 31, 2515–2541 (2022).

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  • Conservation genetics
  • Widespread species
  • Wildlife management
  • Xenarthra