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Keywords:

  • conservation genetics;
  • control region;
  • ESU;
  • microsatellites;
  • nested clade analysis;
  • roan antelope

Abstract

The roan antelope (Hippotragus equinus) is the second largest African antelope, distributed throughout the continent in sub-Saharan savannah habitat. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region sequencing (401 bp, n = 137) and microsatellite genotyping (eight loci, n = 137) were used to quantify the genetic variability within and among 18 populations of this species. The within-population diversity was low to moderate with an average mtDNA nucleotide diversity of 1.9% and average expected heterozygosity with the microsatellites of 46%, but significant differences were found among populations with both the mtDNA and microsatellite data. Different levels of genetic resolution were found using the two marker sets, but both lent strong support for the separation of West African populations (samples from Benin, Senegal and Ghana) from the remainder of the populations studied across the African continent. Mismatch distribution analyses revealed possible past refugia for roan in the west and east of Africa. The West African populations could be recognized together as an evolutionarily significant unit (ESU), referable to the subspecies H. e. koba. Samples from the rest of the continent constituted a geographically more diverse assemblage with genetic associations not strictly corresponding to the other recognized subspecies.