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A genetic study of the heron is helping to improve its protection in Africa

A genetic study of the heron is helping to improve its protection in Africa

The arrui is a protected species throughout its natural range, but population numbers are declining due to illegal hunting, competition for food with livestock, and habitat destruction. A genetic study published in the journal maintenance genetics, This will make it possible to define future conservation measures that will ensure the conservation and preservation of species’ genetic diversity, as well as to identify where the most valuable populations occur, whether native, exotic or captive.

The work that is Led by CIBIO and involving the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), it includes the most comprehensive genetic analysis of African Arrui populations to date (ammotragus lervia).

127 samples were collected from five of the six currently recognized Arruis subspecies, 74 of which provided sufficient genetic material for laboratory analysis.

To conduct this research, we collected 127 specimens from five of the six subspecies of Arruis currently recognized, 74 of which provided sufficient genetic material for analysis in the laboratory (microsatellites and mitochondrial DNA). Thanks to these analyzes it was possible to infer the structure of the populations and their phylogenetic relationships, and to trace the maternal lineages of the individuals introduced into the Spanish populations.

The results obtained demonstrate the presence of four genetically distinct North African populations native to the Atlantic coast of the Sahara, Central Sahara, Tunisia and Egypt.

Arruis Herd / Ximo Albors

New subspecies not described by science

According to one of the authors of the paper, Teresa Abaigara researcher at the Experimental Station of Arid Zones (EEZA-CSIC), “the population preserved in the “La Hoya” experimental farm is exactly the one that corresponds to the population of the Atlantic coast of the Sahara that existed thanks to the of of the EEZA-coordinated “ex-situ” conservation program.”

George Cassinelloresponsible for coordinating the project and co-author of the study, emphasizes the relevance of the arruis preserved in the CSIC facilities as a shelter for the Atlantic population, which “according to the results obtained in this work would correspond to a new subspecies known so far by the science have not been described”.

According to the results obtained in this work, it would be a new subspecies that has not yet been described by science.

Jorge Cassinello, co-author of the study

The genetic diversity valued in all wild populations. It was low. This could be a consequence of the existence of small founder groups leading to an increase in inbreeding, likely related to the high hunting pressure they face in their natural range, as well as fragmentation and decline of suitable habitats.

This study provides relevant information for implementation effective protective measures of the Arru, These include the reintroduction and reinforcement of particularly vulnerable populations, as well as the exchange of individuals between captive populations to increase their genetic diversity and their potential viability for future reintroductions.


C Pizzigalli, TL Silva, T Abáigar, G Bertorelle, J Cassinello, JC Brito. “Assessment of the population structure and genetic diversity of wild and captive populations of ammotragus lervia Delivering insights for nature conservation management”. maintenance genetics

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