Short Communication

Mitochondrial DNA variation and population structure of the Critically Endangered saiga antelope Saiga tatarica

M.V. Kholodova a1, E.J. Milner-Gulland a2c1, A.J. Easton a3, L. Amgalan a4, Iu.A. Arylov a5, A. Bekenov a6, Iu.A. Grachev a6, A.A. Lushchekina a1 and O. Ryder a7
a1 A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia
a2 Imperial College London, Silwood Park Campus, Manor House, Buckhurst Road, Ascot, Berks, SG5 7PY, UK
a3 Department of Biological Sciences, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK
a4 Institute of Biology, Mongolian Academy of Sciences, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
a5 Centre for the Study and Conservation of Wild Animals of Kalmykia, Elista, Russia
a6 Institute of Zoology, Ministry of Education and Science, Almaty, Kazakhstan
a7 Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species, Zoological Society of San Diego, San Diego, USA

Article author query
kholodova mv   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
milner-gulland ej   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
easton aj   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
amgalan l   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
arylov ia   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
bekenov a   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
grachev ia   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
lushchekina aa   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
ryder o   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


We analysed the mtDNA control region (HV1) of 93 tissue samples from all five populations of the saiga antelope Saiga tatarica. The results show a slight but clear distinction between S. t. mongolica and S. t. tatarica, supporting the current designation of S. t. mongolica as a subspecies rather than a separate species. Levels of genetic diversity were low in S. t. mongolica, consistent with the small size of its population and long isolation. Although populations of S. t. tatarica have reasonable levels of genetic diversity, their conservation status is perilous. The Kalmykian and Kazakhstan samples each contained unique haplotypes, although the species as a whole appears polyphyletic, consistent with recent fragmentation and rapid population decline. An understanding of the population genetics of this species is an essential prerequisite for conservation action.

(Published Online January 19 2006)
(Received December 8 2004)
(Revised April 20 2005)
(Accepted June 8 2005)

Key Words: Control region; genetic diversity; Kalmykia; Kazakhstan; Mongolia; Saiga tatarica.

c1 Correspondence: Imperial College London, Silwood Park Campus, Manor House, Buckhurst Road, Ascot, Berks, SG5 7PY, UK. E-mail e.j.milner-gulland@imperial.ac.uk