Low genetic diversity in the endangered great Indian bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps) across India and implications for conservation

Oct 25, 2020

The great Indian bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps) is an endemic endangered bird of the Indian subcontinent with a declining population, as a result of hunting and continuing habitat loss. In this first genetic study of this little-known species, we investigate the diversity of the mitochondrial DNA (hypervariable control region II and cytochrome b gene) among samples (n = 63) from five states within the current distribution range of great Indian bustards in India. We find just three haplotypes defined by three variable sites, a comparatively low genetic diversity of π = 0.0021 ± 0.0012 for cytochrome b, 0.0008 ± 0.0007 for the control region (CR), and 0.0017 ± 0.0069 for combined regions and no phylogeographic structure between populations. We provide evidence for a bottleneck event, estimate an effective population size (Ne) that is roughly concordant with recent population size estimates based on field surveys (~200 to 400), but extremely low for a widely distributed species. We also discuss the conservation implications.


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