An exploratory analysis of geographic genetic variation in southern African nyala (Tragelaphus angasii)

13 April 2007

We report patterns of genetic variation based on microsatellite, allozyme and mitochondrial control region markers in nyala from geographic locations sampled in South Africa, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Highly significant differences were observed among allele frequencies at three microsatellite loci between populations from KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Malawi, with the Malawi and KwaZulu-Natal groupings showing the highest differentiation ðRST ¼ 0:377Þ: Allozyme frequencies showed minor, non-statistically significant regional differences among the South African populations, with maximum FST values of 0.048–0.067. Mitochondrial DNA analyses indicated a unique haplotype in each location sampled. Since none of these indices of population differentiation showed significant correlation to absolute geographic distance, we conclude that geographic variation in this species is probably a function of a distribution pattern stemming from habitat specificity. It is suggested that translocations among geographically distant regional populations be discouraged at present, pending a more elaborate investigation. Transfer of native individuals among local populations may, however, be required for minimizing the likelihood of inbreeding depression developing in small captive populations.