Carnivores, competition and genetic connectivity in the Anthropocene
Becker, Matthew S.
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Current extinction rates are comparable to five prior mass extinctions in the earth’s history, and are strongly affected by human activities that have modified more than half of the earth’s terrestrial surface. Increasing human activity restricts animal movements and isolates formerly connected populations, a particular concern for the conservation of large carnivores, but no prior research has used high throughput sequencing in a standardized manner to examine genetic connectivity for multiple species of large carnivores and multiple ecosystems. Here, we used RAD SNP genotypes to test for differences in connectivity between multiple ecosystems for African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) and lions (Panthera leo), and to test correlations between genetic distance, geographic distance and landscape resistance due to human activity. We found weaker connectivity, a stronger correlation between genetic distance and geographic distance, and a stronger correlation between genetic distance and landscape resistance for lions than for wild dogs, and propose a new hypothesis that adaptations to interspecific competition may help to explain differences in vulnerability to isolation by humans.
Creel, S., Spong, G., Becker, M. et al. Carnivores, competition and genetic connectivity in the Anthropocene. Scientific Reports 9, 16339 (2019). doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-52904-0