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Accueil du site → Doctorat → Israel → From behavioral patterns to genetic structure : the reintroduced Asiatic wild ass (Equus hemionus) in the Negev Desert

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (2015)

From behavioral patterns to genetic structure : the reintroduced Asiatic wild ass (Equus hemionus) in the Negev Desert

Sharon Renan

Titre : From behavioral patterns to genetic structure : the reintroduced Asiatic wild ass (Equus hemionus) in the Negev Desert

Auteur : Sharon Renan

Etablissement de soutenance : Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2015

Résumé partiel
The long-term viability of animal populations is highly dependent on their genetic variation. Although in the classical theory of population genetics, models of population’s genetic variation and structure assume random mating and dispersal, in social species, this assumption rarely holds. The social behavior can strongly affect the genetic diversity and structure of populations through its effects on gene flow and genetic drift. In mammals, the effect of sociality on population genetics is relatively well-studied in social species that live in permanent breeding groups. However, the extent to which sociality can affect population diversity and structure in species with a complex group structure (impermanent breeding groups) is less known. Understanding this effect of sociality on population genetics is particularly important in small populations, as these populations are prone to extensive loss of genetic diversity due to genetic drift. Reintroduced populations provide an opportunity to study evolutionary-behavioral-genetic questions since the reintroduction is usually well-documented and commonly involves long-term monitoring of the reintroduced population. The Asiatic wild ass (Equus hemionus) was once abundant in western Asia, including the Negev Desert. The species declined throughout its range and is currently defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as endangered. The local subspecies, E. h. hemippus, became extinct in the early 19th century. In 1968, a breeding core comprising its closest known relatives (E. h. kulan and E. h. onager) was established in Hai-Bar Yotvata Reserve, and between 1982 and 1993, E. hemionus spp. were reintroduced into the Negev Desert by The Israel Nature and Parks Authority. The program was well-documented, and the reintroduced populations were intensively monitored in the following years. In 1991, blood samples were taken from all animals in the breeding core and stored as a long-term genetic resource. During the late 1990s, the population expanded its geographical range and currently ranges from the northern Negev Highlands to the Eilat Mountains, including the Arava Valley (Fig 2). The total population is estimated at approximately 250 individuals and is still considered as a small population. As is typical of equids, the Asiatic wild ass lives in a polygynous mating system with an elaborate social system. The well-documented reintroduction of the Asiatic wild ass, the relatively small population size and the complex social behavior of the Asiatic wild ass provide an excellent system in which to study the effect of sociality on the population genetics in small, complex social systems. Therefore, the research goal of my thesis was to examine the effects of social behavior on the genetic diversity and structure of the reintroduced Asiatic wild ass population.

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