Aye-aye population genomic analyses highlight an important center of endemism in northern Madagascar
Reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (2013) 110(15): 5823-5828

We performed a population genomics study of the aye-aye, a highly specialized nocturnal lemur from Madagascar. Aye-ayes have low population densities and extensive range requirements that could make this flagship species particularly susceptible to extinction. Therefore, knowledge of genetic diversity and differentiation among aye-aye populations is critical for conservation planning. Such information may also advance our general understanding of Malagasy biogeography, as aye-ayes have the largest species distribution of any lemur. We generated and analyzed whole-genome sequence data for 12 aye-ayes from three regions of Madagascar (North, West, and East). We found that the North population is genetically distinct, with strong differentiation from other aye-ayes over relatively short geographic distances. For comparison, the average FST value between the North and East aye-aye populations—separated by only 248 km—is over 2.1-times greater than that observed between human Africans and Europeans. This finding is consistent with prior watershed- and climate-based hypotheses of a center of endemism in northern Madagascar. Taken together, these results suggest a strong and long-term biogeographical barrier to gene flow. Thus, the specific attention that should be directed toward preserving large, contiguous aye-aye habitats in northern Madagascar may also benefit the conservation of other distinct taxonomic units. To help facilitate future ecological- and conservation-motivated population genomic analyses by noncomputational biologists, the analytical toolkit used in this study is available on the Galaxy Web site.


Perry G. H., Louis E. E., Ratan A., Bedoya-Reina O. C., Burhans R. C., Lei R., Johnson S. E., Schuster S. C. and Miller W.

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Perry G.H., Louis E.E., Ratan A., Bedoya-Reina O.C., Burhans R.C., Lei R., Johnson S.E., Schuster S. C., Miller W.