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J Hered. 1991 Nov-Dec;82(6):447-52.

Genetic divergence in South African Wildebeest: comparative cytogenetics and analysis of mitochondrial DNA.

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Mammal Research Institute, University of Pretoria, South Africa.


The blue and the black wildebeest, Connochaetes taurinus and C. gnou, are currently classified as congeneric, but previous reports have placed C. taurinus in its own genus, Gorgon. To further clarify the evolutionary relationship between these two species, we examined and compared their mitotic chromosomes and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). No species-specific G-banded or C-banded chromosomal markers were found, and we conclude that the karyotypes are invariant at the level of resolution obtained. An evolutionary divergence time of approximately 1 million years was calculated from mtDNA restriction fragment data, indicating a close phylogenetic relationship for the two wildebeest species. The low nucleotide diversity detected within the black wildebeest (0.09%) is thought to reflect the recent population bottleneck to which the species has been subjected. In contrast, the limited heterogeneity (0.02%) within the South African blue wildebeest herds sampled in this study was surprising, and we argue that for many populations, especially those on smaller reserves, this may reflect common descent from a small number of animals through management-controlled translocations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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