Phylogeography and population structure of the Yunnan snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus bieti) inferred from mitochondrial control region DNA sequence analysis

Authors

  • ZHIJIN LIU,

    1. Key Laboratory of Animal Ecology and Conservation Biology, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 25 Beisihuan Xilu, Haidian, Beijing 100080, China,
    2. Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100039, China,
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  • BAOPING REN,

    1. Key Laboratory of Animal Ecology and Conservation Biology, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 25 Beisihuan Xilu, Haidian, Beijing 100080, China,
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  • FUWEN WEI,

    1. Key Laboratory of Animal Ecology and Conservation Biology, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 25 Beisihuan Xilu, Haidian, Beijing 100080, China,
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  • YONGCHENG LONG,

    1. China Program, The Nature Conservancy, 8th Floor Yunnan Provincial Meteorological Bureau Building, 77 Xichang Road, Kunming, Yunnan 650034, China
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  • YANLI HAO,

    1. Key Laboratory of Animal Ecology and Conservation Biology, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 25 Beisihuan Xilu, Haidian, Beijing 100080, China,
    2. Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100039, China,
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  • MING LI

    1. Key Laboratory of Animal Ecology and Conservation Biology, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 25 Beisihuan Xilu, Haidian, Beijing 100080, China,
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Dr Ming Li, Fax: 86-10-64807099; E-mail: lim@ioz.ac.cn

Abstract

Rhinopithecus bieti, the Yunnan snub-nosed monkey, is the nonhuman primate with the highest altitudinal distribution and is also one of the 25 most globally endangered primate species. Currently, R. bieti is found in forests between 3000 and 4500 m above sea level, within a narrow area on the Tibetan Plateau between the Yangtze and Mekong rivers, where it is suffering from loss of habitat and shrinking population size (~1500). To assess the genetic diversity within this species, its population structure and to infer its evolutionary history, we sequenced 401 bp of the hypervariable I (HVI) segment from the mitochondrial DNA control region (CR) for 157 individuals from 11 remnant patches throughout the fragmented distribution area. Fifty-two variable sites were observed and 30 haplotypes were defined. Compared with other primate species, R. bieti cannot be regarded as a taxon with low genetic diversity. Phylogenetic analysis partitioned haplotypes into two divergent haplogroups (A and B). Haplotypes from the two mitochondrial clades were found to be mixed in some patches although the distribution of haplotypes displayed local homogeneity, implying a strong population structure within R. bieti. Analysis of molecular variance detected significant differences among the different geographical regions, suggesting that R. bieti should be separated into three management units (MUs) for conservation. Based on our results, it can be hypothesized that the genetic history of R. bieti includes an initial, presumably allopatric divergence between clades A and B 1.0–0.7 million years ago (Ma), which might have been caused by the Late Cenozoic uplift of the Tibetan Plateau, secondary contact after this divergence as a result of a population expansion 0.16–0.05 Ma, and population reduction and habitat fragmentation in the very recent past.

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