Microsatellite variability in four contemporary rhinoceros species : implications for conservation
Scott, Candace A.
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Rhinoceroses are arguably the most endangered of all large mammal taxa. In order for ongoing conservation of this species to be successful, it is crucial to accurately characterize the remaining genetic diversity for all rhinoceros species. To do this, I optimized a standard suite of 24 taxon-specific rhinoceros microsatellite loci. These loci have the power to provide the most comprehensive estimate of comparative microsatellite genetic diversity within and among the four extant African and Asian rhinoceros genera. These loci were further used to evaluate the comparative influences of rhinoceros species versus microsatellite taxonomic origin as predictors of rhino microsatellite diversity, and finally to examine the evolutionary relationships between extant rhino taxa. The African black michaeli rhino subspecies had the highest level of microsatellite genetic variability of all available rhinos, while southern white and Indian rhinos were the least variable rhinos. These findings also suggested that species and taxonomic origin of microsatellite loci were both significant predictors of microsatellite heterozygosity in rhinoceroses. A weak association between the Sumatran and black rhinos was found with a DLR neighbour-joining tree. The standard loci were able to assign unique genotypes to all available rhinos as well as differentiate between all rhino species by correctly assigning individual rhinos back to their respective populations.