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Microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA assessment of the genetic diversity of captive Saiga antelopes (Saiga tatarica) in China

Zhao, ShaSha, Xu, ChaoQun, Liu, Gang, Liu, ShuQiang, Zhao, ChongXue, Cui, YaXiong, Hu, DeFu
Chinese science bulletin 2013 v.58 no.18 pp. 2163-2167
alleles, antelopes, genetic variation, haplotypes, inbreeding, microsatellite repeats, mitochondrial DNA, umbilical cord, China
To estimate the genetic diversity of the only captive Saiga antelope (Saiga tatarica) population in China, 40 umbilical cord samples were collected and mitochondrial (control region) and nuclear (microsatellite) variabilities were assessed. Both of the markers revealed low genetic variability (or high genetic homogeneity) within the population. The microsatellites yielded monitoring ranges of 2–6 alleles. The observed heterozygosities ranged from 0.28 to 0.83, and the expected heterozygosities were between 0.27 and 0.71. The Shannon information index (Shannon I) and Polymorphic Information Content (PIC) presented overall means of 0.87 and 0.43, respectively. The gene diversity was 0.49. We found only two haplotypes in the population, and the haplotype and nucleotide diversities were 39.1% and 1.13%, respectively. Founder events, bottlenecks and inbreeding have contributed to the low genetic variation observed in this population. Our findings revealed the extent of genetic diversity maintained in the present population and the urgency of implementing a protection plan, introducing animals from other populations to enhance saiga’s genetic variation.