Pragmatic perspective on conservation genetics and demographic history of the last surviving population of kashmir red deer (cervus elaphus hanglu) in India

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Abstract

The hangul (Cervus elaphus hanglu) is of great conservation concern because it represents the easternmost and only hope for an Asiatic survivor of the red deer species in the Indian subcontinent. Despite the rigorous conservation efforts of the Department of Wildlife Protection in Jammu & Kashmir, the hangul population has experienced a severe decline in numbers and range contraction in the past few decades. The hangul population once abundant in the past has largely become confined to the Dachigam landscape, with a recent population estimate of 218 individuals. We investigated the genetic variability and demographic history of the hangul population and found that it has shown a relatively low diversity estimates when compared to other red deer populations of the world. Neutrality tests, which are used to evaluate demographic effects, did not support population expansion, and the multimodal pattern of mismatch distribution indicated that the hangul population is under demographic equilibrium. Furthermore, the hangul population did not exhibit any signature of bottleneck footprints in the past, and Coalescent Bayesian Skyline plot analysis revealed that the population had not experienced any dramatic changes in the effective population size over the last several thousand years. We observed a strong evidence of sub-structuring in the population, wherein the majority of individuals were assigned to different clusters in Bayesian cluster analysis. Population viability analysis demonstrated insignificant changes in the mean population size, with a positive growth rate projected for the next hundred years. We discuss the phylogenetic status of hangul for the first time among the other red deer subspecies of the world and strongly recommend to upgrade hangul conservation status under IUCN that should be discrete from the other red deer subspecies of the world to draw more conservation attention from national and international bodies.

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Mukesh, Kumar, V. P., Sharma, L. K., Shukla, M., & Sathyakumar, S. (2015). Pragmatic perspective on conservation genetics and demographic history of the last surviving population of kashmir red deer (cervus elaphus hanglu) in India. PLoS ONE, 10(2). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0117069

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