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Ghosh, T.; Kumar, S.; Sharma, K.; Kakati, P.; Sharma, A.; Mondol, S., 2022. Consideration of genetic variation and evolutionary history in future conservation of Indian one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis). BMC Ecology and Evolution 22 (92): 1-13 -

Location: Asia - South Asia
Subject: Genetics
Species: Indian Rhino

Original text on this topic:
NB. Typing error Rookmaker for Rookmaaker
References without URL would have been available on RRC

The extant members of the Asian rhinos have experienced severe population and range declines since Pleistocene through a combination of natural and anthropogenic factors. The one-horned rhino is the only Asian species recovered from such conditions but most of the extant populations are reaching carrying capacity. India currently harbours ~?83% of the global wild one-horned rhino populations distributed across seven protected areas. Recent assessments recommend reintroduction-based conservation approaches for the species, and implementation of such efforts would greatly benefit from detailed genetic assessments and evolutionary history of these populations. Using mitochondrial data, we investigated the phylogeography, divergence and demographic history of one-horned rhinos across its Indian range.

We report the first complete mitogenome from all the extant Indian wild one-horned rhino populations (n?=?16 individuals). Further, we identified all polymorphic sites and assessed rhino phylogeography (2531 bp mtDNA, n?=?111 individuals) across India. Results showed 30 haplotypes distributed as three distinct genetic clades (Fst value 0.68–1) corresponding to the states of Assam (n?=?28 haplotypes), West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh (both monomorphic). The reintroduced population of Uttar Pradesh showed maternal signatures of Chitwan National Park, Nepal. Mitochondrial phylogenomics suggests one-horned rhino diverged from its recent common ancestors ~?950 Kya and different populations (Assam, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh/Nepal) coalesce at ~?190–50 Kya, corroborating with the paleobiogeography history of the Indian subcontinent. Further, the demography analyses indicated historical decline in female effective population size ~?300–200 Kya followed by increasing trends during ~?110–60 Kya.

The phylogeography and phylogenomic outcomes suggest recognition of three ‘Evolutionary Significant Units (ESUs)’ in Indian rhino. With ongoing genetic isolation of the current populations, future management efforts should focus on identifying genetically variable founder animals and consider periodic supplementation events while planning future rhino reintroduction programs in India. Such well-informed, multidisciplinary approach will be the only way to ensure evolutionary, ecological and demographic stability of the species across its range.

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