Phylogeography of Panthera tigris in the mangrove forest of the Sundarbans

Aziz, M.A., Smith, O., Jackson, H.A., Tollington, S. ORCID: 0000-0003-2450-7255, Darlow, S., Barlow, A., Islam, M.A. and Groombridge, J., 2022. Phylogeography of Panthera tigris in the mangrove forest of the Sundarbans. Endangered Species Research, 48, pp. 87-97. ISSN 1863-5407

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Tigers Panthera tigris in the Sundarbans represent the only population adapted to living in mangrove forest habitat. Several studies, based on limited morphological and genetic data, have described the population as being differentiated from the Bengal tiger subspecies P. tigris tigris. The phylogenetic ancestry of the Sundarbans population has also remained poorly understood. We generated 1263 bp of mtDNA sequences across 4 mtDNA genes for 33 tiger samples from the Bangladesh Sundarbans and compared these with 33 mtDNA haplotypes known from all subspecies of extant tigers. We detected 3 haplotypes within the Sundarbans tigers, of which one is unique to this population and the remaining 2 are shared with tiger populations inhabiting central Indian landscapes. Phylogenetic analyses using maximum likelihood and Bayesian inferences supported the Sundarbans tigers as being paraphyletic, indicating a close phylogenetic relationship with other populations of Bengal tigers, from which the Sundarbans population diverged around 26000 yr ago. Our phylogenetic analyses, together with evidence of ecological adaptation to the unique mangrove habitat, indicate that the Sundarbans population should be recognised as a separate management unit. We recommend that conservation management must focus on sustaining this representative tiger population adapted to mangrove habitat while at the same time recognising that trans-boundary conservation efforts through reintroduction or exchange of individuals, to enhance genetic diversity, might be needed in the future as a last resort for population recovery.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Endangered Species Research
Creators: Aziz, M.A., Smith, O., Jackson, H.A., Tollington, S., Darlow, S., Barlow, A., Islam, M.A. and Groombridge, J.
Publisher: Inter-Research Science Center
Date: 9 June 2022
Volume: 48
ISSN: 1863-5407
Rights: © The authors 2022. Open Access under Creative Commons by Attribution Licence. Use, distribution and reproduction are un-restricted. Authors and original publication must be credited.
Divisions: Schools > School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences
Record created by: Laura Ward
Date Added: 19 Jul 2022 14:48
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2022 10:41

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