Friday, August 22, 2014

[Primate • 2014] Conservation Genetics of the Philippine Tarsier [Tarsius syrichta]: Cryptic Genetic Variation Restructures Conservation Priorities for an Island Archipelago Primate

Figure 1. Phylogeographic relationships of Tarsius syrichta (see Appendix S1 for taxonomic summary) estimated from a combined, partitioned, RAxML ML analysis of mitochondrial (12S, CytB, ND2) gene fragments. Black circles at nodes correspond to ML bootstraps ≥70% and Bayesian PP ≥95%.
Brown, et al. 2014 | doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0104340.g001


Establishment of conservation priorities for primates is a particular concern in the island archipelagos of Southeast Asia, where rates of habitat destruction are among the highest in the world. Conservation programs require knowledge of taxonomic diversity to ensure success. The Philippine tarsier is a flagship species that promotes environmental awareness and a thriving ecotourism economy in the Philippines. However, assessment of its conservation status has been impeded by taxonomic uncertainty, a paucity of field studies, and a lack of vouchered specimens and genetic samples available for study in biodiversity repositories. Consequently, conservation priorities are unclear. In this study we use mitochondrial and nuclear DNA to empirically infer geographic partitioning of genetic variation and to identify evolutionarily distinct lineages for conservation action. The distribution of Philippine tarsier genetic diversity is neither congruent with expectations based on biogeographical patterns documented in other Philippine vertebrates, nor does it agree with the most recent Philippine tarsier taxonomic arrangement. We identify three principal evolutionary lineages that do not correspond to the currently recognized subspecies, highlight the discovery of a novel cryptic and range-restricted subcenter of genetic variation in an unanticipated part of the archipelago, and identify additional geographically structured genetic variation that should be the focus of future studies and conservation action. Conservation of this flagship species necessitates establishment of protected areas and targeted conservation programs within the range of each genetically distinct variant of the Philippine tarsier.

Figure 2. DISTRUCT visualization of STRUCTURE analyses (A) assigning individuals to major population groupings (genetically distinct evolutionary lineages) for Philippine tarsier demes (K = 2 and 3 populations).
Mindanao faunal region (B; see Fig. 1, inset) with sampling (17 sites, 66 individuals) labeled with letters corresponding to full localities listed in Appendix S2, protected areas shaded red. SplitsTree gene network (C; numbers at internodes = ML bootstrap replicates), and results of GMYC analyses (red asterisks denote lineages delineated by the Yule-coalescent), with numbers at tips corresponding to individual samples in Structure plots (A) and cluster shading corresponding to islands on map (B).

Rafe M. Brown, Jennifer A. Weghorst, Karen V. Olson, Mariano R. M. Duya, Anthony J. Barley, Melizar V. Duya, Myron Shekelle,Irene Neri-Arboleda, Jacob A. Esselstyn, Nathaniel J. Dominy, Perry S. Ong, Gillian L. Moritz, Adrian Luczon, Mae Lowe L. Diesmos, Arvin C. Diesmos and Cameron D. Siler. 2014. Conservation Genetics of the Philippine Tarsier: Cryptic Genetic Variation Restructures Conservation Priorities for an Island Archipelago Primate. 

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