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Genetic diversity in the lion (Panthera leo (Linnaeus 1758)): unravelling the past and prospects for the future

Promotor: Prof.dr. G.R. de Snoo

Auteur L.D. Bertola
Links Thesis in Leiden Repository

Insights into the spatial distribution of genetic diversity is key for understanding the evolutionary history and for effective species conservation. For the lion, all African populations are considered to belong to one subspecies, while the Asiatic subspecies is confined to a single population in India. However, it is suggested that the genetic diversity is greater than the taxonomy implies. Notably the West and Central African lion represents a unique clade, which is relevant because the populations in this region are generally small and isolated. Phylogenetic analyses of mtDNA data, microsatellites and autosomal SNPs from lion populations throughout their complete geographic range show congruent patterns in which the Asiatic subspecies has a nested position within the West/Central African lion. Recognizing a northern subspecies, including the Asiatic lion, and a southern subspecies, is more in line with the evolutionary history of the lion. A revision of the taxonomy is therefore warranted.