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Low genetic diversity in the endangered great Indian bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps) across India and implications for conservation

Abstract

The great Indian bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps) is an endemic endangered bird of the Indian subcontinent with a declining population, as a result of hunting and continuing habitat loss. In this first genetic study of this little-known species, we investigate the diversity of the mitochondrial DNA (hypervariable control region II and cytochrome b gene) among samples (n = 63) from five states within the current distribution range of great Indian bustards in India. We find just three haplotypes defined by three variable sites, a comparatively low genetic diversity of π = 0.0021 ± 0.0012 for cytochrome b, 0.0008 ± 0.0007 for the control region (CR), and 0.0017 ± 0.0069 for combined regions and no phylogeographic structure between populations. We provide evidence for a bottleneck event, estimate an effective population size (Ne) that is roughly concordant with recent population size estimates based on field surveys (~200 to 400), but extremely low for a widely distributed species. We also discuss the conservation implications. Based on our findings, we strongly recommend upgrading the IUCN threat status from Endangered to Critically Endangered.

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Acknowledgments

This study was funded by the Wildlife Institute of India. FI was supported by the Marie Curie Fellowship (MIF2-CT-2007-040845), European Commission during this study. We thank the Chief Wildlife Wardens and Forest Departments of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Andhra Pradesh for logistic support. We are grateful to T. Rao and S. Rajora for providing samples. We would also like to thank Forensic lab, WII, for help with DNA sequencing. We acknowledge I.P. Bopanna, K.K. Maurya, S. Pore, G. Punjabi and Y.C. Krishna for their help during fieldwork. Negi, Ibla, Isaaque, Shankar, Lakhma, Dev, Rekha, Tarun Singh, Ali, Ram, Jampe, Adi Srisaya, Gafur and Shankala are thanked for their sincere field assistance. We would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their useful comments.

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Correspondence to Farah Ishtiaq or Yadvendradev V. Jhala.

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Ishtiaq, F., Dutta, S., Yumnam, B. et al. Low genetic diversity in the endangered great Indian bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps) across India and implications for conservation. Conserv Genet 12, 857–863 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10592-011-0206-0

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Keywords

  • Ardeotis nigriceps
  • Bottleneck
  • Effective population size
  • Low genetic variability
  • Indian subcontinent
  • Mitochondrial DNA