The conservation value of admixed phenotypes in a critically endangered species complex

Penulis: KR Sadanandan, GW Low, S Sridharan, CY Gwee, EYX Ng, P Yuda, JGH Lee, A.Tritto, FE Rheindt
In today’s environmental crisis, conservationists are increasingly confronted with terminally endangered species whose last few surviving populations may be affected by allelic introgression from closely related species. Yet there is a worrying lack of evidence-based recommendations and solutions for this emerging problem. We analyzed genome-wide DNA markers and plumage variability in a critically endangered insular songbird, the Black-winged Myna (BWM, Acridotheres melanopterus). This species is highly threatened by the illegal wildlife trade, with its wild population numbering in the low hundreds, and its continued survival urgently depending on ex-situ breeding. Its three subspecies occur along a geographic gradient of melanism and are variably interpreted as three species. However, our integrative approach revealed that melanism poorly reflects the pattern of limited genomic differentiation across BWM subspecies. We also uncovered allelic introgression into the most melanistic subspecies, tertius, from the all-black congeneric Javan Myna (A. javanicus), which is native to the same islands. Based on our results, we recommend the establishment of three separate breeding programs to maintain subspecific traits that may confer local adaptation, but with the option of occasional cross-breeding between insurance populations in order to boost genetic diversity and increase overall viability prospects of each breeding program. Our results underscore the importance of evidence-based integrative approaches when determining appropriate conservation units. Given the rapid increase of terminally endangered organisms in need of ex-situ conservation, this study provides an important blueprint for similar programs dealing with phenotypically variable species.

Sadanandan KR, Low GW, Sridharan S, Gwee CY, Ng EYX, Yuda P, Prawiradilaga DM, Lee JGH, Tritto A & Rheindt FE. 2020. The Conservation Value of Admixed Phenotypes in a Critically Endangered Species complex. Scientific Reports 10:15549


No. Arsip : LIPI-20200924
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