Conservation genetics of Boelen's python (Morelia boeleni) from New Guinea: Reduced genetic diversity and divergence of captive and wild animals

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Boelen's python (Morelia boeleni) is a montane New Guinea endemic found in highlands above 1000 m and below the tree line. The ecology, natural history, distribution, population size, and conservation status of this species are largely unknown. It has a protected status in Papua New Guinea but not in Indonesian Papua and several US and European zoos have active captive breeding programs that have been largely unsuccessful. To understand the degree of genetic diversity in wild and captive animals we undertook a genetic analysis of 90 M. boeleni for which we sequenced two mtDNA loci and one nuclear locus for a total of 1,418 bp of sequence data per individual. All 16 wild-caught M. boeleni from Indonesia and all captive M. boeleni are genetically uniform for all three loci. The single wild-caught animal from Papua New Guinea showed extremely low levels of genetic divergence and diversity from the Indonesian and captive samples. Data from two congeners, M. amethistina and M. viridis, suggests that M. boeleni have reduced genetic variation with a small effective population size possibly due to historical bottlenecks. These data demonstrate the need for further studies of genetic diversity of M. boeleni from across its range and raise particular concern for the limited genetic diversity of M. boeleni used captive breeding programs in zoological parks. © 2009 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

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Conservation Genetics

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