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Journal Article

Journal article

Genetic diversity of endangered brown bear (Ursus arctos) populations at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa  [2009]

Calvignac, Sébastien; Hughes, Sandrine; Hänni, Catherine;

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Middle East brown bears (Ursus arctos syriacus Hemprich and Ehrenberg, 1828) are presently on the edge of extinction. However, little is known of their genetic diversity. This study investigates that question as well as that of Middle East brown bear relationships to surrounding populations of the species. Middle East region of south-western Asia. We performed DNA analyses on 27 brown bear individuals. Twenty ancient bone samples (Late Pleistocene to 20th century) from natural populations and seven present-day samples obtained from captive individuals were analysed. Phylogenetic analyses of the mitochondrial sequences obtained from seven ancient specimens identify three distinct maternal clades, all unrelated to one recently described from North Africa. Brown bears from Iran exhibit striking diversity (three individuals, three haplotypes) and form a unique clade that cannot be linked to any extant one. Individuals from Syria belong to the Holarctic clade now observed in Eastern Europe, Turkey, Japan and North America. Specimens from Lebanon surprisingly appear as tightly linked to the clade of brown bears now in Western Europe. Moreover, we show that U. a. syriacus in captivity still harbour haplotypes closely linked to those found in ancient individuals. This study brings important new information on the genetic diversity of brown bear populations at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa. It reveals a high level of diversity in Middle East brown bears
and extends the historical distribution of the Western European clade to the East. Our analyses also suggest the value of a specific breeding programme for captive populations.

From the journal

Diversity & distributions

ISSN : 1366-9516