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Conservation genetics of American crocodile, Crocodylus acutus, populations in Pacific Costa Rica

March 29, 2017

Maintaining genetic diversity is crucial for the survival and management of threatened and endangered species. In this study, we analyzed genetic diversity and population genetic structure at neutral loci in American crocodiles, Crocodylus acutus, from several areas (Parque Nacional Marino Las Baulas, Parque Nacional Santa Rosa, Parque Nacional Palo Verde, Rio Tarcoles, and Osa Conservation Area) in Pacific Costa Rica. We genotyped 184 individuals at nine microsatellite loci to describe the genetic diversity and conservation genetics between and among populations. No population was at Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium (HWE) over all loci tested and a small to moderate amount of inbreeding was present. Populations along the Pacific coast had an average heterozygosity of 0.572 across all loci. All populations were significantly differentiated from each other with both FST and RST measures of population differentiation with a greater degree of molecular variance (81%) found within populations. Our results suggest C. acutus populations in Pacific Costa Rica were not panmictic with moderate levels of genetic diversity. An effective management plan that maintains the connectivity between clusters is critical to the success of C. acutus in Pacific Costa Rica.