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Wild gazelles of the southern Levant: genetic profiling defines new conservation priorities.

Hadas L, Hermon D, Boldo A, Arieli G, Gafny R, King R, Bar-Gal GK - PLoS ONE (2015)

Bottom Line: Nevertheless, ongoing habitat degradation and other human effects, such as poaching, suggest the need for drastic measures to prevent species extinction.The two populations did not share haplotypes, suggesting that these two populations may be the last remnant wild gazelles of this species worldwide.Only a dozen acacia gazelles survive in Israel, and urgent steps are needed to ensure the survival of this genetically distinctive lineage.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: The Koret School of Veterinary Medicine, The Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Rehovot, Israel.

ABSTRACT
The mountain gazelle (Gazella gazelle), Dorcas gazelle (Gazella Dorcas) and acacia gazelle (Gazella arabica acacia) were historically abundant in the southern Levant, and more specifically in Israel. Anthropogenic and natural changes have caused a rapid decline in gazelle populations, raising concerns about their conservation status and future survival. The genetic profile of 111 wild gazelles from Israel was determined based on three regions of mitochondrial DNA (control region, Cytochrome b and 12S ribosomal RNA) and nine nuclear microsatellite markers. Genetic analysis of the mountain gazelle population, the largest known population of this rare species, revealed adequate diversity levels and gene flow between subpopulations. Nevertheless, ongoing habitat degradation and other human effects, such as poaching, suggest the need for drastic measures to prevent species extinction. Dorcas gazelles in Israel displayed inbreeding within subpopulations while still maintaining considerable genetic diversity overall. This stable population, represented by a distinctive genetic profile, is fragmented and isolated from its relatives in neighboring localities. Based on the genetic profile of a newly sampled subpopulation in Israel, we provide an alternative hypothesis for the historic dispersal of Dorcas gazelle, from the Southern Levant to northern Africa. The small acacia gazelle population was closest to gazelles from the Farasan Islands of Saudi Arabia, based on mitochondrial markers. The two populations did not share haplotypes, suggesting that these two populations may be the last remnant wild gazelles of this species worldwide. Only a dozen acacia gazelles survive in Israel, and urgent steps are needed to ensure the survival of this genetically distinctive lineage. The genetic assessments of our study recognize new conservation priorities for each gazelle species in the Southern Levant.

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Sampling sites of gazelles across the Southern Levant.The division by species and geographic regions is indicated by the different icons. Shaded icons represent mountain gazelles: triangles represent the Northern subpopulation, squares represent the Central subpopulation, diamonds represent the Coastal subpopulation and circles represent the Western Negev subpopulation. Dorcas gazelles are represented by unshaded icons: circles represent the Negev subpopulation and the triangles the Arava subpopulation. Acacia gazelles were sampled only from the Arava (shaded star).
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pone.0116401.g001: Sampling sites of gazelles across the Southern Levant.The division by species and geographic regions is indicated by the different icons. Shaded icons represent mountain gazelles: triangles represent the Northern subpopulation, squares represent the Central subpopulation, diamonds represent the Coastal subpopulation and circles represent the Western Negev subpopulation. Dorcas gazelles are represented by unshaded icons: circles represent the Negev subpopulation and the triangles the Arava subpopulation. Acacia gazelles were sampled only from the Arava (shaded star).

Mentions: The genus Gazella (Family: Bovidae, Subfamily: Antilopinae) is distributed widely across Africa, the Middle East and Asia [1]. Prior to the domestication of livestock, the most frequently hunted species in the southern Levant was the mountain gazelle (Gazella gazella) [2,3]. In the last century, hunting has remained a major threat to gazelle populations, together with recent climatic and anthropogenic changes (rapid growth of the human population, increased infrastructure, intensive agriculture). These have resulted in the fragmentation of gazelle populations throughout their ranges. In Israel three species of Gazella are extant: mountain gazelles, the most common gazelle in Israel, is found from the Golan Heights in the North throughout Central Israel, the Jordan Rift Valley and the Northern Negev (IUCN classification VU-vulnerable); Dorcas gazelles (Gazella dorcas) distributed from the Northern Negev southwards (IUCN classification VU); and the endemic acacia gazelles (presumed Gazella arabica subspecies) with a very limited home range in the Arava Valley, and with most confined to a nature reserve for protection (Fig. 1). Mountain gazelles have been reported as extinct in Syria, and possibly extinct in Lebanon and Jordan, making the population in Israel regionally unique [4]. The Dorcas gazelle has a wider distribution and is found mainly across North Africa. The acacia gazelles in the Arava Valley constitute the only known surviving population of this Arabian gazelle subspecies. Annual gazelle surveys in Israel conducted by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) indicate a continuous trend of population declines among all species, especially mountain gazelle [5]. The main factors contributing to this alarming decline in Israel are illegal hunting, predation, road kills and habitat fragmentation [6]. As of 2013 INPA reported population sizes of approximately 3000 mountain gazelles, 800 Dorcas gazelles and 12 acacia gazelles. In 2012 50 acacia gazelles were counted but since then their number has declined to ∼12 due to severe habitat disturbance by floods and predation (personal communication, R. Talbi).


Wild gazelles of the southern Levant: genetic profiling defines new conservation priorities.

Hadas L, Hermon D, Boldo A, Arieli G, Gafny R, King R, Bar-Gal GK - PLoS ONE (2015)

Sampling sites of gazelles across the Southern Levant.The division by species and geographic regions is indicated by the different icons. Shaded icons represent mountain gazelles: triangles represent the Northern subpopulation, squares represent the Central subpopulation, diamonds represent the Coastal subpopulation and circles represent the Western Negev subpopulation. Dorcas gazelles are represented by unshaded icons: circles represent the Negev subpopulation and the triangles the Arava subpopulation. Acacia gazelles were sampled only from the Arava (shaded star).
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4356595&req=5

pone.0116401.g001: Sampling sites of gazelles across the Southern Levant.The division by species and geographic regions is indicated by the different icons. Shaded icons represent mountain gazelles: triangles represent the Northern subpopulation, squares represent the Central subpopulation, diamonds represent the Coastal subpopulation and circles represent the Western Negev subpopulation. Dorcas gazelles are represented by unshaded icons: circles represent the Negev subpopulation and the triangles the Arava subpopulation. Acacia gazelles were sampled only from the Arava (shaded star).
Mentions: The genus Gazella (Family: Bovidae, Subfamily: Antilopinae) is distributed widely across Africa, the Middle East and Asia [1]. Prior to the domestication of livestock, the most frequently hunted species in the southern Levant was the mountain gazelle (Gazella gazella) [2,3]. In the last century, hunting has remained a major threat to gazelle populations, together with recent climatic and anthropogenic changes (rapid growth of the human population, increased infrastructure, intensive agriculture). These have resulted in the fragmentation of gazelle populations throughout their ranges. In Israel three species of Gazella are extant: mountain gazelles, the most common gazelle in Israel, is found from the Golan Heights in the North throughout Central Israel, the Jordan Rift Valley and the Northern Negev (IUCN classification VU-vulnerable); Dorcas gazelles (Gazella dorcas) distributed from the Northern Negev southwards (IUCN classification VU); and the endemic acacia gazelles (presumed Gazella arabica subspecies) with a very limited home range in the Arava Valley, and with most confined to a nature reserve for protection (Fig. 1). Mountain gazelles have been reported as extinct in Syria, and possibly extinct in Lebanon and Jordan, making the population in Israel regionally unique [4]. The Dorcas gazelle has a wider distribution and is found mainly across North Africa. The acacia gazelles in the Arava Valley constitute the only known surviving population of this Arabian gazelle subspecies. Annual gazelle surveys in Israel conducted by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) indicate a continuous trend of population declines among all species, especially mountain gazelle [5]. The main factors contributing to this alarming decline in Israel are illegal hunting, predation, road kills and habitat fragmentation [6]. As of 2013 INPA reported population sizes of approximately 3000 mountain gazelles, 800 Dorcas gazelles and 12 acacia gazelles. In 2012 50 acacia gazelles were counted but since then their number has declined to ∼12 due to severe habitat disturbance by floods and predation (personal communication, R. Talbi).

Bottom Line: Nevertheless, ongoing habitat degradation and other human effects, such as poaching, suggest the need for drastic measures to prevent species extinction.The two populations did not share haplotypes, suggesting that these two populations may be the last remnant wild gazelles of this species worldwide.Only a dozen acacia gazelles survive in Israel, and urgent steps are needed to ensure the survival of this genetically distinctive lineage.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: The Koret School of Veterinary Medicine, The Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Rehovot, Israel.

ABSTRACT
The mountain gazelle (Gazella gazelle), Dorcas gazelle (Gazella Dorcas) and acacia gazelle (Gazella arabica acacia) were historically abundant in the southern Levant, and more specifically in Israel. Anthropogenic and natural changes have caused a rapid decline in gazelle populations, raising concerns about their conservation status and future survival. The genetic profile of 111 wild gazelles from Israel was determined based on three regions of mitochondrial DNA (control region, Cytochrome b and 12S ribosomal RNA) and nine nuclear microsatellite markers. Genetic analysis of the mountain gazelle population, the largest known population of this rare species, revealed adequate diversity levels and gene flow between subpopulations. Nevertheless, ongoing habitat degradation and other human effects, such as poaching, suggest the need for drastic measures to prevent species extinction. Dorcas gazelles in Israel displayed inbreeding within subpopulations while still maintaining considerable genetic diversity overall. This stable population, represented by a distinctive genetic profile, is fragmented and isolated from its relatives in neighboring localities. Based on the genetic profile of a newly sampled subpopulation in Israel, we provide an alternative hypothesis for the historic dispersal of Dorcas gazelle, from the Southern Levant to northern Africa. The small acacia gazelle population was closest to gazelles from the Farasan Islands of Saudi Arabia, based on mitochondrial markers. The two populations did not share haplotypes, suggesting that these two populations may be the last remnant wild gazelles of this species worldwide. Only a dozen acacia gazelles survive in Israel, and urgent steps are needed to ensure the survival of this genetically distinctive lineage. The genetic assessments of our study recognize new conservation priorities for each gazelle species in the Southern Levant.

Show MeSH