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Testing for hybridisation of the Critically Endangered Iguana delicatissima on Anguilla to inform conservation efforts

Pounder, KC, Mukhida, F, Brown, RP, Carter, D, Daltry, JC, Fleming, T, Goetz, M, Halsey, LG, Hughes, G, Questel, K, Saccheri, IJ, Williams, R and Soanes, LM (2020) Testing for hybridisation of the Critically Endangered Iguana delicatissima on Anguilla to inform conservation efforts. Conservation Genetics. ISSN 1566-0621

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Abstract

The Caribbean Island of Anguilla in the north-eastern Lesser Antilles is home to one of the last populations of the Critically Endangered Lesser Antillean iguana Iguana delicatissima. This population is highly threatened primarily because of hybridisation with non-native Iguana iguana. This study assesses the degree of hybridisation between Anguilla’s Iguana species firstly using morphological characteristics and then genetic analysis to validate the genetic integrity of morphologically identified I. delicatissima. We also examined the genetic diversity of Anguilla’s I. delicatissima population, and that of a population on the nearby island of Îlet Fourchue, St Barthélemy. Forty-five iguanas were captured in Anguilla and 10 in St Barthélemy, and sequences from 3 nuclear and 1 mtDNA genes were obtained for each. Of the 45 iguanas captured in Anguilla, 22 were morphologically identified as I. delicatissima, 12 as I. iguana and the remainder were identified as hybrids. Morphological assignments were all confirmed by genetic analyses except for one I. iguana and one hybrid individual. These two individuals appeared likely to have originated following ancestral hybridisation events several generations ago. A significant paucity of genetic diversity was found within Anguillan and St Barthélemy I. delicatissima populations, with a single haplotype being identified for each of the three nuclear genes and the mtDNA sequence. This study highlights the urgency for immediate action to conserve Anguilla’s remnant I. delicatissima population. Protection from hybridisation will require translocation to I. iguana-free offshore cays, with supplementary individuals being sourced from neighbouring islands to enhance the genetic diversity of the population.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 06 Biological Sciences, 05 Environmental Sciences
Subjects: Q Science > QL Zoology
Divisions: Biological & Environmental Sciences (new Sep 19)
Publisher: Springer (part of Springer Nature)
Date Deposited: 04 Mar 2020 10:56
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2020 11:00
DOI or Identification number: 10.1007/s10592-020-01258-6
URI: http://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/12383

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