Triangulating the provenance of African elephants using mitochondrial DNA
Article first published online: 1 AUG 2012
© 2012 The Authors. Evolutionary Applications published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.
Volume 6, Issue 2, pages 253–265, February 2013
How to Cite
Ishida, Y., Georgiadis, N. J., Hondo, T. and Roca, A. L. (2013), Triangulating the provenance of African elephants using mitochondrial DNA. Evolutionary Applications, 6: 253–265. doi: 10.1111/j.1752-4571.2012.00286.x
- Issue published online: 18 FEB 2013
- Article first published online: 1 AUG 2012
- Manuscript Accepted: 25 JUN 2012
- Manuscript Received: 5 MAY 2012
- USFWS African Elephant Conservation Fund. Grant Number: 0554-96200-0-G051
- forest elephants;
- microsatellite markers;
- savanna elephants
African elephant mitochondrial (mt) DNA follows a distinctive evolutionary trajectory. As females do not migrate between elephant herds, mtDNA exhibits low geographic dispersal. We therefore examined the effectiveness of mtDNA for assigning the provenance of African elephants (or their ivory). For 653 savanna and forest elephants from 22 localities in 13 countries, 4258 bp of mtDNA was sequenced. We detected eight mtDNA subclades, of which seven had regionally restricted distributions. Among 108 unique haplotypes identified, 72% were found at only one locality and 84% were country specific, while 44% of individuals carried a haplotype detected only at their sampling locality. We combined 316 bp of our control region sequences with those generated by previous trans-national surveys of African elephants. Among 101 unique control region haplotypes detected in African elephants across 81 locations in 22 countries, 62% were present in only a single country. Applying our mtDNA results to a previous microsatellite-based assignment study would improve estimates of the provenance of elephants in 115 of 122 mis-assigned cases. Nuclear partitioning followed species boundaries and not mtDNA subclade boundaries. For taxa such as elephants in which nuclear and mtDNA markers differ in phylogeography, combining the two markers can triangulate the origins of confiscated wildlife products.