Museum specimens indicate genetic erosion in an endangered lizard

in Amphibia-Reptilia
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Genetic variability, one of the main factors that guarantees species persistence, and species’ conservation status are generally evaluated with indices calculated at the present time. Natural history collections might help compare historical and current genetic diversity so to identify major trends. Here we analysed museum specimens of the lizard Zootoca vivipara carniolica, with a specific and stringent protocol for degraded DNA, in order to contrast its past and current genetic variability, using fragments of one mitochondrial DNA gene. Part of the distributional range of Z. v. carniolica (Po Plain, Italy), heavily impacted by human activities, was investigated. We found two previously unknown haplotypes in populations that are extinct today, suggesting the loss of these haplotypes and thus an overall shrinking of genetic variability. We argue that these results, together with the increasing threats posed by climate and land use changes, suggest that specific conservation measures for the persistence of Z. v. carniolica in Northern Italian lowlands have to be considered.

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Museum specimens indicate genetic erosion in an endangered lizard

in Amphibia-Reptilia



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    List of locations and specimens analysed. Area, refers to fig. 1a-b; N, number of extracted samples per location; Amplified, number of samples successfully amplified for at least one cytb fragment (* indicates sequenced individuals ascribable to Z. v. vivipara lineage according to cytb haplotype); Haplotypes, observed haplotypes in the historical specimens successfully amplified for the 311-bp cytb fragment (in brackets, the number of samples carrying the haplotype); Preservation, method of preservation.

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    a) Cytb haplotype network including all the Z. v. carniolica haplotypes publicly available (OS, OL, OT) and the sequences obtained in this study (HS, historical sample). Haplotype labels beside big circles indicate sequences identical (due to the fact that a shorter fragment, in comparison with the original haplotype definition, was analysed in this study) to the haplotype showed inside the circle. The haplotypes depicted in the figure are not completely confined to single geographic populations. Small empty circles represent mutational steps between haplotypes; numbers beside branches indicate the position of the substitution and the type of nucleotide change; dashed lines represent connections to haplotypes coming from locations where Z. v. carniolica is considered extinct. b) Map of Northern Italy with a simplified representation of cytb haplotype network. The haplotypes depicted in the figure are not completely confined to single geographic populations. Thickness of network connections is proportional to the maximum number of mutations between two nodes. Grey areas represent the approximate current (dark gray) and historical (light grey) distribution of Z. v. carniolica according to the literature.

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