As an important economic natural resource in Southeast Asia, reticulated pythons (Malayopython reticulatus ssp.) are primarily harvested from the wild for their skins—which are prized in the luxury leather goods industry. Trade dynamics of this CITES Appendix II listed species are complex and management approaches on the country or regional level appear obscure. Little is known about the actual geographic point-of-harvest of snakes, how genetic diversity is partitioned across the species range, how current harvest levels may affect the genetic viability of populations, and whether genetic structure could (or should) be accounted for when managing harvest quotas. As an initial survey, we use mitochondrial sequence data to define the broad-scale geographic structure of genetic diversity across a significant portion of the reticulated python’s native range. Preliminary results reveal: (1) prominent phylogenetic structure across populations east and west of Huxley’s modification of Wallace’s line. Thirty-four haplotypes were apportioned across two geographically distinct groups, estimated to be moderately (5.2%); (2) Philippine, Bornean and Sulawesian populations appear to cluster distinctly; (3) individuals from Ambon Island suggest recent human introduction. Malayopython reticulatus is currently managed as a single taxonomic unit across Southeast Asia yet these initial results may justify special management considerations of the Philippine populations as a phylogenetically distinct unit, that warrants further examination. In Indonesia, genetic structure does not conform tightly to political boundaries and therefore we advocate the precautionary designation and use of Evolutionary Significant Units within Malayopython reticulatus, to inform and guide regional adaptive management plans.
Murray-Dickson, G., Ghazali, M., Ogden, R., Brown, R., & Auliya, M. (2017). Phylogeography of the reticulated python (Malayopython reticulatus ssp.): Conservation implications for the worlds’ most traded snake species. PLoS ONE, 12(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0182049