Conservation Genetics

, Volume 15, Issue 6, pp 1393–1402 | Cite as

High genetic structure of the Cozumel Harvest mice, a critically endangered island endemic: conservation implications

  • Sayra Espindola
  • Alfredo D. Cuarón
  • Oscar E. Gaggiotti
  • Ella Vázquez-DomínguezEmail author
Research Article


We assessed the genetic structure and diversity of Reithrodontomys spectabilis, a critically endangered, endemic rodent from Cozumel Island, México. A total of 90 individuals were trapped from September 2001 to January 2005. Microsatellite data analysis revealed high genetic diversity values: a total of 113 alleles (average 12.5 per locus), H o  = 0.78, H e  = 0.80. These high values can be related to Cozumel’s size (478 km2) and extensive native vegetation cover, factors that could be promoting a suitable population size, high heterozygosity and the persistence of rare alleles in the species, as well as some long-term movement of individuals between sampling localities. A strong genetic structure was also observed, with at least four genetic groups, associated with a pattern of isolation by distance. We found a strong allelic and genetic differentiation shown between localities, with negligible recent gene flow and low inbreeding coefficients. The species life history and ecological characteristics—being nocturnal, semi-terrestrial, a good tree climber, having lunar phobia and significant edge effect—are likely affecting its genetic structure and differentiation. The high genetic diversity and population structure award R. spectabilis a significant conservation value. Our results can serve as a basis for future research and conservation of the species, particularly considering the problems the island is facing from habitat perturbation, urbanization and introduction of exotic species. In view of the structure and genetic variability observed, it is essential to establish and reinforce protected areas and management programs for the conservation of the endemic and endangered Cozumel Harvest mice.


Cozumel Island Genetic diversity Mexico Microsatellites Reithrodontomys spectabilis 



The authors thank all the people involved in the collecting of samples and for helping with fieldwork (E. Fuentes-Montemayor, C. Hernández, I. Fortes, G. Gutiérrez-Granados, R. Vega, T. Gutiérrez-García, T. Garrido-Garduño, S. Castañeda-Rico, H. Reyes, M. Suárez-Atilano), S. Castañeda for technical advise and S. Suárez for facilitating work in San Gervasio. We are grateful with the authorities of Cozumel and of Comisión de Agua Potable y Alcantarillado (CAPA), especially to C. González-Baca and J. Bonfil, for the support and facilities provided during the fieldwork on the island. J.P. Jaramillo-Correa and D. Valenzuela made suggestions on an earlier version, while two anonymous reviewers helped improved this manuscript. E. Vázquez-Domínguez acknowledges financial support from the Instituto de Ecología, UNAM, from Programa de Apoyo a Proyectos de Investigación e Innovación Tecnológica (grants IX238004, IN217910 and IN219707) and from Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACyT grant 101861). S. Espindola acknowledges the scholarship and financial support provided by CONACyT (No. 245447). Scientific collector permit to E.V.D.: Semarnat-FAUT-0168.

Supplementary material

10592_2014_625_MOESM1_ESM.docx (121 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 120 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sayra Espindola
    • 1
  • Alfredo D. Cuarón
    • 2
  • Oscar E. Gaggiotti
    • 3
  • Ella Vázquez-Domínguez
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Departamento de Ecología de la Biodiversidad, Instituto de Ecología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoCiudad UniversitariaMexicoMexico
  2. 2.SACBÉ—Servicios Ambientales, Conservación Biológica y EducaciónQuintana RooMexico
  3. 3.Scottish Oceans InstituteEast Sands, University of St AndrewsSt AndrewsUK

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