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Genetic Insights Into Dispersal Distance and Disperser Fitness of African Lions (Panthera Leo) From the Latitudinal Extremes of the Kruger National Park, South Africa

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Genetic Insights Into Dispersal Distance and Disperser Fitness of African Lions (Panthera Leo) From the Latitudinal Extremes of the Kruger National Park, South Africa

Pim van Hooft et al. BMC Genet.

Abstract

Background: Female lions generally do not disperse far beyond their natal range, while males can disperse distances of over 200 km. However, in bush-like ecosystems dispersal distances less than 25 km are reported. Here, we investigate dispersal in lions sampled from the northern and southern extremes of Kruger National Park, a bush-like ecosystem in South Africa where bovine tuberculosis prevalence ranges from low to high across a north-south gradient.

Results: A total of 109 individuals sampled from 1998 to 2004 were typed using 11 microsatellite markers, and mitochondrial RS-3 gene sequences were generated for 28 of these individuals. Considerable north-south genetic differentiation was observed in both datasets. Dispersal was male-biased and generally further than 25 km, with long-distance male gene flow (75-200 km, detected for two individuals) confirming that male lions can travel large distances, even in bush-like ecosystems. In contrast, females generally did not disperse further than 20 km, with two distinctive RS-3 gene clusters for northern and southern females indicating no or rare long-distance female dispersal. However, dispersal rate for the predominantly non-territorial females from southern Kruger (fraction dispersers ≥0.68) was higher than previously reported. Of relevance was the below-average body condition of dispersers and their low presence in prides, suggesting low fitness.

Conclusions: Large genetic differences between the two sampling localities, and low relatedness among males and high dispersal rates among females in the south, suggestive of unstable territory structure and high pride turnover, have potential implications for spread of diseases and the management of the Kruger lion population.

Keywords: Disease spread; Dispersal; Gene flow; Kruger National Park; Lion; Management; Microsatellite; Mitochondrial DNA; Panthera leo; RS-3.

Conflict of interest statement

Ethics approval and consent to participate

Animal handling and sample collection was approved by the Animal Use and Care Committee of the University of Pretoria (V052–09) and the SANP Animal Use and Care Committee (SanParks).

Consent for publication

Not applicable.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests. PVH and ADSB are on the editorial board of BMC Genetics.

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Figures

Fig. 1
Fig. 1
Average pairwise relatedness within prides according to sex and age. Red data points: northern Kruger, blue data points: southern Kruger, circles: females, diamonds: males, triangles: opposite sex, error bars: 95% confidence interval
Fig. 2
Fig. 2
Isolation-by-distance among females ≥3 year old. Red circles: northern Kruger, blue circles: southern Kruger. Circles represent mean relatedness per pair of localities and circle size total number of comparisons per pair of localities (minimum = 1, maximum = 36). Northern Kruger: Pearson r = − 0.22, P = 0.039, nindividuals = 23, nlocalities = 6; southern Kruger: Pearson r = − 0.23, P = 0.014, nindividuals = 26, nlocalities = 10
Fig. 3
Fig. 3
Triangle plot denoting the three microsatellite clusters identified by Structure. Red data points: northern Kruger, blue data points: southern Kruger. The ancestry of each individual was distributed across three clusters by the program Structure. Three groups of individuals could be identified. Triangles: group 1 with mostly individuals from northern Kruger (northern cluster group); diamonds: group 2 with mostly individuals from southern Kruger (southern cluster group); circles: group 3 with individuals from both regions (mixed cluster group)
Fig. 4
Fig. 4
Relationship between age and dispersal in southern Kruger (logistic regression). Regression line: probability of being a candidate disperser. Upper and lower lines: upper and lower limit of the 95% confidence interval of the regression line. Data points: proportion of DNA not coming from the local cluster (cluster 2, right axis). Light blue diamonds: > 80% of DNA not coming from the local cluster and therefore considered as candidate dispersers; dark blue diamonds: > 40% of DNA coming from the local cluster therefore considered as candidate residents. Dependent variable: candidate disperser status (value = 1: candidate disperser, proportion of DNA that was not assigned to the local cluster > 80%, nindividuals = 37; value = 0: candidate resident, nindividuals = 27), χ2-value model = 20.5, d.f. = 2, Pmodel = 0.000036, Page = 0.00058, Page2 = 0.00070. Sex was not significant when added to the regression model (Psex = 0.78)
Fig. 5
Fig. 5
Relationship between age and body condition for residents and dispersers in northern Kruger (logistic regression). Red circles: candidate residents, pink diamonds: candidate dispersers. Size of data points is proportional to the number of sampled individuals (candidate residents: 1–8 individuals, candidate dispersers: 1–2 individuals). Regression lines: probability of having a high body condition. Upper and lower lines: upper and lower limit of the 95% confidence interval of the regression lines. Dotted lines: candidate dispersers, solid lines: candidate residents. Dependent variable: body condition (BCS): 0: BCS ≤ 4 (only two out of 44 individuals with BCS < 4), 1: BCS = 5. χ2-value model = 10.71, d.f. = 2, Pmodel = 0.0047, Page = 0.018, Pdisperser status = 0.018. Sex was not significant when added to the regression model (Psex = 0.34). Candidate resident with body condition = 0: nindividuals = 5, candidate resident with body condition = 1: nindividuals = 28, candidate disperser with body condition = 0: nindividuals = 5, candidate disperser with body condition = 1: nindividuals = 6
Fig. 6
Fig. 6
Minimum spanning network of RS-3 sequences of the northern haplotype cluster Red haplotypes: northern Kruger, blue haplotypes: southern Kruger (Sabi Sands). Black numbers: haplotype number, white numbers between brackets: number of repeats per polymorphic site (same order as in Table 1). First site: number of ba-repeats, second site: number of a-repeats, third and fourth site: number of c-repeats. Lines in between haplotypes: total number of repeat differences/total number of polymorphic sites. Dashed lines: alternative connections. No line in between adjoining haplotype indicates difference of one repeat at one polymorphic site. Due to a very different repeat structure, haplotypes from the northern and southern cluster could not be aligned with each other
Fig. 7
Fig. 7
Minimum spanning network of RS-3 sequences of the southern haplotype cluster Black numbers: haplotype number, white numbers between brackets: number of repeats per polymorphic site (same order as in Table 1). First site: number of b-repeats, second and third site: number of a-repeats, fourth site: number of b-repeats, fifth site: a- or b-repeat. Lines in between haplotypes: total number of repeat differences/total number of polymorphic sites. No line in between adjoining haplotype indicates difference of one repeat at one polymorphic site. Due to a very different repeat structure, haplotypes from the northern and southern cluster could not be aligned with each other

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