Low but highly geographically structured genomic diversity of East Asian Eurasian otters and its conservation implications

Shou Hsien Li*, Chia fen Yeh, Nian Hong Jang-Liaw, Shih Wei Chang, Yu Hsiu Lin, Cheng En Tsai, Chi Cheng Chiu, Chien Wen Chen, Hui Ru Ke, Qiaoyun Wang, Yiwei Lu, Kaidan Zheng, Pengfei Fan, Lu Zhang, Yang Liu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Populations of Eurasian otters Lutra lutra, one of the most widely distributed apex predators in Eurasia, have been depleted mainly since the 1950s. However, a lack of information about their genomic diversity and how they are organized geographically in East Asia severely impedes our ability to monitor and conserve them in particular management units. Here, we re-sequenced and analyzed 20 otter genomes spanning continental East Asia, including a population at Kinmen, a small island off the Fujian coast, China. The otters form three genetic clusters (one of L. l. lutra in the north and two of L. l. chinensis in the south), which have diverged in the Holocene. These three clusters should be recognized as three conservation management units to monitor and manage independently. The heterozygosity of the East Asian otters is as low as that of the threatened carnivores sequenced. Historical effective population size trajectories inferred from genomic variations suggest that their low genomic diversity could be partially attributed to changes in the climate since the mid-Pleistocene and anthropogenic intervention since the Holocene. However, no evidence of genetic erosion, mutation load, or high level of inbreeding was detected in the presumably isolated Kinmen Island population. Any future in situ conservation efforts should consider this information for the conservation management units.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13630
JournalEvolutionary Applications
Volume17
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2024 Jan

Keywords

  • Lutra lutra
  • conservation genomic
  • population genetics – empirical
  • wildlife management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences

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