Conservation genetics of the Critically Endangered Saint Croix ground lizard (Ameiva polops Cope 1863)
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The Saint Croix ground lizard (Ameiva polops) is a Critically Endangered species endemic to Saint Croix, U. S. Virgin Islands. Although it is completely extirpated from Saint Croix Island (last seen in 1968), two small natural satellite populations survive on two islets off St. Croix: one on Protestant Cay (estimated at ~30 individuals in 2002); and one on Green Cay (estimated at ~180 individuals in 2002). Two additional small populations exist that were founded with individuals translocated from the two surviving natural populations. One is on Ruth Island, a man-made islet off St. Croix, founded in 1990 with 10 individuals from Protestant Cay. The other is on Buck Island, ~2. 5 km from Saint Croix, founded in 2008 with 57 individuals from Green Cay. All populations are vulnerable to catastrophic events such as hurricanes, sea level rise, introduction of exotic species, and landscape transformation. Herein, we used mitochondrial and nuclear-microsatellite markers to examine levels of genetic diversity within extant populations of A. polops and the degree of genetic differentiation among them. We also conducted analyses to search for signatures of recent bottlenecks in these populations and to estimate their effective population size (N e). We found low genetic variability within populations of this lizard, comparable to that observed in other threatened vertebrates. We also found significant genetic differentiation among the three populations examined, as well as signatures of recent bottlenecks and critically low N e values in all populations. Based on our results, we suggest two different conservation units for A. polops: (1) Green Cay and its replicate population at Buck Island; and (2) Protestant Cay and its replicate population at Ruth Island. We discuss the implications of our findings on the conservation and management of A. polops. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
author list (cited authors)
Hurtado, L. A., Santamaria, C. A., & Fitzgerald, L. A.