High genetic structure of the Cozumel Harvest mice, a critically endangered island endemic: conservation implications

Sayra Espindola, A.D. Cuarón, O.E. Gaggiotti, Ella Vázquez-Domínguez

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12 Citations (Scopus)


We assessed the genetic structure and diversity of Reithrodontomys spectabilis, a critically endangered, endemic rodent from Cozumel Island, México. A total of 90 individuals were trapped from September 2001 to January 2005. Microsatellite data analysis revealed high genetic diversity values: a total of 113 alleles (average 12.5 per locus), H0 = 0.78, He = 0.80. These high values can be related to Cozumel's size (478 km2) and extensive native vegetation cover, factors that could be promoting a suitable population size, high heterozygosity and the persistence of rare alleles in the species, as well as some long-term movement of individuals between sampling localities. A strong genetic structure was also observed, with at least four genetic groups, associated with a pattern of isolation by distance. We found a strong allelic and genetic differentiation shown between localities, with negligible recent gene flow and low inbreeding coefficients. The species life history and ecological characteristics-being nocturnal, semi-terrestrial, a good tree climber, having lunar phobia and significant edge effect-are likely affecting its genetic structure and differentiation. The high genetic diversity and population structure award R. spectabilis a significant conservation value. Our results can serve as a basis for future research and conservation of the species, particularly considering the problems the island is facing from habitat perturbation, urbanization and introduction of exotic species. In view of the structure and genetic variability observed, it is essential to establish and reinforce protected areas and management programs for the conservation of the endemic and endangered Cozumel Harvest mice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1393-1402
Number of pages10
JournalConservation Genetics
Issue number6
Early online date22 Jun 2014
Publication statusPublished - 6 Dec 2014


  • Cozumel Island
  • Genetic diversity
  • Mexico
  • Microsatellites
  • Reithrodontomys spectabilis


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