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Patterns of molecular genetic variation among African elephant populations

Authors

  • Kenine E. Comstock,

    1. Clinical Research Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, 1100 Fairview Avenue N., D4-100, Seattle, WA 98109–1024, USA,
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  • Nicholas Georgiadis,

    1. Mpala Research Centre, PO Box 555, Nanyuki, Kenya,
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  • Jill Pecon-Slattery,

    1. Laboratory of Genomic Diversity, National Cancer Institute —Frederick, Frederick, MD 21702-1201, USA,
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  • Alfred L. Roca,

    1. Laboratory of Genomic Diversity, National Cancer Institute —Frederick, Frederick, MD 21702-1201, USA,
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  • Elaine A. Ostrander,

    1. Clinical Research Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, 1100 Fairview Avenue N., D4-100, Seattle, WA 98109–1024, USA,
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  • Stephen J. O'Brien,

    1. Clinical Research Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, 1100 Fairview Avenue N., D4-100, Seattle, WA 98109–1024, USA,
    2. Laboratory of Genomic Diversity, National Cancer Institute —Frederick, Frederick, MD 21702-1201, USA,
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  • Samuel K. Wasser

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Zoology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195 USA
      Samuel K. Wasser. E-mail: wassers@u.washington.edu
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Samuel K. Wasser. E-mail: wassers@u.washington.edu

Abstract

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.

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