Genetic variability, management, and conservation implications of the critically endangered Brazilian pitviper Bothrops insularis

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Information on demographic, genetic, and environmental parameters of wild and captive animal populations has proven to be crucial to conservation programs and strategies. Genetic approaches in conservation programs of Brazilian snakes remain scarce despite their importance for critically endangered species, such as Bothrops insularis, the golden lancehead, which is endemic to Ilha da Queimada Grande, coast of São Paulo State, Brazil. This study aims to (a) characterize the genetic diversity of ex situ and in situ populations of B. insularis using heterologous microsatellites; (b) investigate genetic structure among and within these populations; and (c) provide data for the conservation program of the species. Twelve informative microsatellites obtained from three species of the B. neuwiedi group were used to access genetic diversity indexes of ex situ and in situ populations. Low‐to‐medium genetic diversity parameters were found. Both populations showed low—albeit significant—values of system of mating inbreeding coefficient, whereas only the in situ population showed a significant value of pedigree inbreeding coefficient. Significant values of genetic differentiation indexes suggest a small differentiation between the two populations. Discriminant analysis of principal components (DAPC) recovered five clusters. No geographic relationship was found in the island, suggesting the occurrence of gene flow. Also, our data allowed the establishment of six preferential breeding couples, aiming to minimize inbreeding and elucidate uncertain parental relationships in the captive population. In a conservation perspective, continuous monitoring of both populations is demanded: it involves the incorporation of new individuals from the island into the captive population to avoid inbreeding and to achieve the recommended allelic similarity between the two populations. At last, we recommend that the genetic data support researches as a base to maintain a viable and healthy captive population, highly genetically similar to the in situ one, which is crucial for considering a reintroduction process into the island.
Oliveira IS, Machado T, Banci KRS, Almeida-Santos SM, Silva MJJ. Genetic variability, management, and conservation implications of the critically endangered Brazilian pitviper Bothrops insularis. Ecol. Evol.. 2020 Dec;10(13):12870-12882. doi:10.1002/ece3.6838.
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