Wild gazelles of the southern levant: Genetic profiling defines new conservation priorities

Lia Hadas, Dalia Hermon, Amizor Boldo, Gal Arieli, Ron Gafny, Roni King, Gila Kahila Bar-Gal

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18 Scopus citations


The mountain gazelle (Gazella gazelle ), Dorcas gazelle (Gazella Dorcas ) and acacia gazelle (Gazella arabica acacia) were historically abundant in the southern Levant, and more specifically in Israel. Anthropogenic and natural changes have caused a rapid decline in gazelle populations, raising concerns about their conservation status and future survival. The genetic profile of 111 wild gazelles from Israel was determined based on three regions of mitochondrial DNA (control region, Cytochrome b and 12S ribosomal RNA) and nine nuclear microsatellite markers. Genetic analysis of the mountain gazelle population, the largest known population of this rare species, revealed adequate diversity levels and gene flow between subpopulations. Nevertheless, ongoing habitat degradation and other human effects, such as poaching, suggest the need for drastic measures to prevent species extinction. Dorcas gazelles in Israel displayed inbreeding within subpopulations while still maintaining considerable genetic diversity overall. This stable population, represented by a distinctive genetic profile, is fragmented and isolated from its relatives in neighboring localities. Based on the genetic profile of a newly sampled subpopulation in Israel, we provide an alternative hypothesis for the historic dispersal of Dorcas gazelle, from the Southern Levant to northern Africa. The small acacia gazelle population was closest to gazelles from the Farasan Islands of Saudi Arabia, based on mitochondrial markers. The two populations did not share haplotypes, suggesting that these two populations may be the last remnant wild gazelles of this species worldwide. Only a dozen acacia gazelles survive in Israel, and urgent steps are needed to ensure the survival of this genetically distinctive lineage. The genetic assessments of our study recognize new conservation priorities for each gazelle species in the Southern Levant.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere0116401
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
StatePublished - 11 Mar 2015

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© 2015 Hadas et al.


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