Genetic structure of the black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) in south-eastern Africa

Antoinette Kotze, Desire Dalton, Raoul du Toit, Natasha Anderson, Yoshan Moodley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite an on-going struggle to conserve the
endangered black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) since the
1980s, huge capital investment and several genetic surveys,
the level of genetic structure and connectivity among
populations in southern Africa is not well understood.
Here, we undertake a major population genetic study of
black rhinoceros in the Zimbabwe Lowveld, an area
inhabited by over half of that country’s original Zambezi
descendants plus one large population sourced from the
relict KwaZulu stock of South Africa. Using nuclear
microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA data, we found
much higher levels of genetic diversity in the indigenous
Zimbabwean populations, where observed multilocus heterozygosity was 0.54 versus 0.40 in KwaZulu, and maternal haplotype diversity was 0.77 versus 0.03. We show, for
the first time, that both gene pools can be differentiated
from each other on the basis of nuclear markers. This,
along with the discovery of recent gene flow between all
Lowveld populations, suggests that Zimbabwean and South
African gene pools were prehistorically connected.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1479-1489
JournalConservation Genetics
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jul 2014


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