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The Journal of heredity

Population Structure and Genetic Diversity of the Endangered South American Giant Otter (Pteronura brasiliensis) from the Orinoco Basin in Colombia: Management Implications and Application to Current Conservation Programs.


PMID 26245782

Abstract

Endangered giant otters, Pteronura brasiliensis, are found along the Amazon and Orinoco rivers and most of their tributaries. Hunting in the mid-1970s pushed giant otter populations to the brink of extinction. We studied population structure and genetic diversity of giant otters from Colombia's Orinoco basin using analyses of partial mitochondrial DNA control region sequences obtained from scat material. We collected and analyzed 54 scat samples from 22 latrines, 2 tissue samples primarily from captive giant otters and 2 from hunted animals near Puerto Carreño and Puerto Inírida (Colombian Orinoco), as well as one tissue sample from Puerto Leguizamo (Colombian Amazon). Thirty-nine partial control region sequences were obtained (258bp), corresponding to 15 unique haplotypes. Most of these haplotypes, found in samples collected around Puerto Carreño, defined one phylogeographic group (phylogroup) not previously described. Higher genetic diversity in the Colombian Orinoco populations than in other South American populations suggests that this newly described phylogroup, as well as a second phylogroup defined from a few Colombian Orinoco and Amazon samples, should be considered distinct genetic management units. National conservation programs, particularly those aiming to establish protected areas, should manage these independently. Current Colombian confiscated animal reintroduction and captive reproduction programs should also consider such differentiation when determining reintroduction locations or improving husbandry practices.