Microsatellite variability reveals significant genetic differentiation of giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) in the Minshan A habitat
Although, Minshan A habitat is an area with one of the largest numbers of wild giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca); it may be threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation. In this study, 10 microsatellite DNA markers were used to assess population genetic structure of giant pandas from two critical reserves (Tangjiahe and Wanglang) in the Minshan A habitat. The results revealed high levels of genetic differentiation (FST = 0.134) between the two populations. This differentiation was supported by the assignment tests using the Bayesian clustering method in STRUCTURE. The uniqueness of the populations was also supported by private alleles. This indicated a significant population fragmentation in Minshan A region. In addition, the high individual inbreeding coefficients for Wanglang indicated increased levels of homozygosity in the wild populations. Fortunately, those populations had high levels of genetic diversity. The average allelic richness (AR) and expected heterzygosity (HE) were 4.520 and 0.689, respectively for Tangjiahe and 4.584 and 0.648 for Wanglang. Here, we propose an effective way to restore gene flow between the two isolated populations.
Key words: Giant panda, microsatellite variation, genetic differentiation, habitat fragmentation, Minshan A habitat.