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, 19 (3), 611-618

No Longer Locally Extinct? Tracing the Origins of a Lion ( Panthera leo) Living in Gabon


No Longer Locally Extinct? Tracing the Origins of a Lion ( Panthera leo) Living in Gabon

Ross Barnett et al. Conserv Genet.


Lions (Panthera leo) are of particular conservation concern due to evidence of recent, widespread population declines in what has hitherto been seen as a common species, robust to anthropogenic disturbance. Here we use non-invasive methods to recover complete mitochondrial genomes from single hair samples collected in the field in order to explore the identity of the Gabonese Plateaux Batéké lion. Comparison of the mitogenomes against a comprehensive dataset of African lion sequences that includes relevant geographically proximate lion populations from both contemporary and ancient sources, enabled us to identify the Plateaux Batéké lion as a close maternal relative to now extirpated populations found in Gabon and nearby Congo during the twentieth century, and to extant populations of Southern Africa. Our study demonstrates the relevance of ancient DNA methods to field conservation work, and the ability of trace field samples to provide copious genetic information about free-ranging animals.

Keywords: Ancient DNA; Congo; Gabon; Lion; Mitochondrial genomes; Panthera leo; Plateaux Batéké National Park.


Fig. 1
Fig. 1
Map of Central Africa, showing Gabon and Congo, with locations mentioned in the text. OKNP Odzala-Kokoua National Park, PBNP Plateaux Batéké National Park. Also shown are approximate distributions of the main maternal haplotype lineages as shown in Barnett et al. (2014). Central lineage = Red; Western lineage = Orange; Eastern lineage = yellow; Southern lineage = pink; Northern lineage = blue. (Color figure online)
Fig. 2
Fig. 2
Camera trap image of the PBNP male lion taken in 2016
Fig. 3
Fig. 3
Phylogenetic tree of cytochrome b for lions showing in detail the position of the lions from Plateaux Batéké, Odzala-Kokoua, and Franceville identified by stars. Other populations coloured in accordance with Fig. 1. Central lineage = Red; Western lineage = Orange; Northern lineage = blue; Eastern lineage = yellow. (Color figure online)

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