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Eritrea has one of the northernmost populations of African elephants. Only about 100 elephants persist in the Gash-Barka administrative zone. Elephants in Eritrea have become completely isolated, with no gene flow from other elephant populations. The conservation of Eritrean elephants would benefit from an understanding of their genetic affinities to elephants elsewhere on the continent and the degree to which genetic variation persists in the population. Using dung samples from Eritrean elephants, we examined 18 species-diagnostic single nucleotide polymorphisms in 3 nuclear genes, sequences of mitochondrial HVR1 and ND5, and genotyped 11 microsatellite loci. The sampled Eritrean elephants carried nuclear and mitochondrial DNA markers establishing them as savanna elephants, with closer genetic affinity to Eastern than to North Central savanna elephant populations, and contrary to speculation by some scholars that forest elephants were found in Eritrea. Mitochondrial DNA diversity was relatively low, with 2 haplotypes unique to Eritrea predominating. Microsatellite genotypes could only be determined for a small number of elephants but suggested that the population suffers from low genetic diversity. Conservation efforts should aim to protect Eritrean elephants and their habitat in the short run, with restoration of habitat connectivity and genetic diversity as long-term goals.
Oxford University Press
fecal DNA, Loxodonta, microsatellites, mitochondrial DNA, single nucleotide polymorphism, war elephants
Brandt, Adam L.; Hagos, Yohannes; Yacob, Yohannes; David, Victor; Georgiadis, Nicholas J.; Shoshani, Jeheskel; and Roca, Alfred L., "The Elephants of Gash-Barka, Eritrea: Nuclear and Mitochondrial Genetic Patterns" (2013). Faculty Creative and Scholarly Works. 29.