Tiger connectivity in Peninsular India.
National Centre For Biological SciencesAuthors
Meghana Natesh, Prachi Thatte, Uma Ramakrishnan
Tigers live in discontinuous patches across peninsular India. Many studies have established the role of connectivity between populations in maintaining genetic diversity, in the absence of which they may become extinct or suffer consequences of inbreeding due to small size. Among tiger populations, many are small and isolated. We are studying gene flow in tiger populations using genetic tools.
Using non-invasive scat sampling, DNA will be extracted and genotyped at microsatellite loci. Analysis after identification of individuals includes detection of recent migrants which tells us about present connectivity, looking at traces of relatively older migrations, and calculation of fixation indices which tell us about population sub-division. For preliminary analysis, data from 107individuals (generated by collaborators) was used.
Preliminary analysis shows that tiger populations are connected within peninsular India. Results from different analyses concur. Even Nagarjunsagar Srisailam Tiger Reserve (NSTR), which is quite distant from all other populations, appears to be connected to other populations.
Tigers in India hold most of the genetic diversity of tigers across various populations in the world. Maintaining genetic diversity in a meta-population relies on gene flow between the sub-populations. Discerning which populations are most genetically diverse and connected would help set conservation priorities. Our results suggest that NSTR might be a connecting link between South and Central India.