Phylogeography and Subspecies Assessment of Vicuñas in Chile and Bolivia Utilizing mtDNA and Microsatellite Markers: Implications for Vicuña Conservation and Management
Camelid, Microsatellites, mtDNA sequences, Ungulate, Vicugna vicugna
The rearing and maintenance of wild vicuñas in semi-captivity for economic utilization is practiced mainly in Peru, but Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile are quickly developing their own programs of economic use. Large scale rearing practices will likely isolate populations and may foster selective breeding. In addition to these concerns, there are also uncertainties about the distribution and validity of the currently recognized subspecies. To better understand the potential impact that economic utilization will have on the vicuña, we describe the molecular genetic variation among four populations andboth described subspecies. An analysis of 794~bp of mitochondrial DNA sequences (16s, cytochrome b genes, and mtDNA control region)revealed appreciable genetic diversity, low to moderate levels of genetic differentiation, and restricted gene flow with isolation by distance among populations. Analysis of microsatellite data also indicated genetic differentiation among populations. Past climatic and geologic events, coupled with human history, have likely subjected the vicuña to various episodes of population isolation and admixture. Therefore,we suggest that managers aim to ensure gene flow among adjoining populations, as observed at mtDNA and microsatellite loci, as well as maintaining apparent restricted gene flow with isolation by distance among populations separated by great distances. Intensive rearing procedures like those being practiced in Peru will ultimately disrupt movements and migration among wild populations. Furthermore,animals that are not exposed to predation by remaining inside fences, may overtime, lose portions of their behavioral repertoire that enable them to recognize potentially dangerous sounds associated with the presence of predators. Therefore, we do not recommend that animals be placed behind fences as this could lead to a loss of genetic and behavioral diversity as well as halting natural ecological processes. If, however, vicuñas are placed behind fences for commercial purposes (with little or no regard for the retention of genetic, and/or behavioral diversity as well as natural population processes) then we suggest close genetic monitoring of animals that are(will be) maintained in captivity.
Sarno, Ronald J.; Lilian Villalba; Cristian Bonacic; Benito Gonzalez; Beatriz Zapata; David W. Macdonald; Stephen J. O'Brien; and Warren E. Johnson. 2004. "Phylogeography and Subspecies Assessment of Vicuñas in Chile and Bolivia Utilizing mtDNA and Microsatellite Markers: Implications for Vicuña Conservation and Management." Conservation Genetics 5, (1): 89-102. http://nsuworks.nova.edu/cnso_bio_facarticles/625