International Journal of Molecular Sciences (2014)

DOI: 10.3390/ijms150711307


Ecological surveys have indicated that the population of the critically endangered Yangtze finless porpoise (YFP, Neophocaena asiaeorientalis asiaeorientalis) is becoming increasingly small and fragmented, and will be at high risk of extinction in the near future. Genetic conservation of this population will be an important component of the long-term conservation effort. We used a 597 base pair mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region and 11 microsatellite loci to analyze the genetic diversity and population structure of the YFP. The analysis of both mtDNA and microsatellite loci suggested that the genetic diversity of the YFP will possibly decrease in the future if the population keeps declining at a rapid rate, even though these two types of markers revealed different levels of genetic diversity. In addition, mtDNA revealed strong genetic differentiation between one local population, Xingchang–Shishou (XCSS), and the other five downstream local populations; furthermore, microsatellite DNA unveiled fine but significant genetic differentiation between three of the local populations (not only XCSS but also Poyang Lake (PY) and Tongling (TL)) and the other local populations. With an increasing number of distribution gaps appearing in the Yangtze main steam, the genetic differentiation of local populations will likely intensify in the future. The YFP is becoming a genetically fragmented population. Therefore, we recommend attention should be paid to the genetic conservation of the YFP.