Primate DNA suggests long-term stability of an African rainforest
Article first published online: 9 OCT 2012
© 2012 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
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Ecology and Evolution
Volume 2, Issue 11, pages 2829–2842, November 2012
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How to Cite
Ecology and Evolution 2012; 2(11): 2829–2842
- Issue published online: 8 NOV 2012
- Article first published online: 9 OCT 2012
- Manuscript Accepted: 3 SEP 2012
- Manuscript Revised: 27 AUG 2012
- Manuscript Received: 2 JUL 2012
- NSF. Grant Numbers: DEB 0717165, DEB 0845392
- Coalescent theory;
- conservation biology;
- historical demography;
- red colobus
Red colobus monkeys, due to their sensitivity to environmental change, are indicator species of the overall health of their tropical rainforest habitats. As a result of habitat loss and overhunting, they are among the most endangered primates in the world, with very few viable populations remaining. Traditionally, extant indicator species have been used to signify the conditions of their current habitats, but they have also been employed to track past environmental conditions by detecting previous population fluctuations. Kibale National Park (KNP) in Uganda harbors the only remaining unthreatened large population of red colobus. We used microsatellite DNA to evaluate the historical demography of these red colobus and, therefore, the long-term stability of their habitat. We find that the red colobus population throughout KNP has been stable for at least ~40,000 years. We interpret this result as evidence of long-term forest stability because a change in the available habitat or population movement would have elicited a corresponding change in population size. We conclude that the forest of what is now Kibale National Park may have served as a Late Pleistocene refuge for many East African species.