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Patterns of molecular genetic variation among African elephant populations


Samuel K. Wasser. E-mail:


The highly threatened African elephants have recently been subdivided into two species, Loxodonta africana (savannah or bush elephant) and L. cyclotis (forest elephant) based on morphological and molecular studies. A molecular genetic assessment of 16 microsatellite loci across 20 populations (189 individuals) affirms species level genetic differentiation and provides robust genotypic assessment of species affiliation. Savannah elephant popula-tions show modest levels of phylogeographic subdivision based on composite microsatellite genotype, an indication of recent population isolation and restricted gene flow between locales. The savannah elephants show significantly lower genetic diversity than forest elephants, probably reflecting a founder effect in the recent history of the savannah species.