Cardiff University | Prifysgol Caerdydd ORCA
Online Research @ Cardiff 
WelshClear Cookie - decide language by browser settings

Historic sampling of a vanishing beast: Population structure and diversity in the Black Rhinoceros

Sánchez-Barreiro, Fátima, De Cahsan, Binia, Westbury, Michael V., Sun, Xin, Margaryan, Ashot, Fontsere, Claudia, Bruford, Michael W. ORCID:, Russo, Isa-Rita M. ORCID:, Kalthoff, Daniela C., Sicheritz-Pontén, Thomas, Petersen, Bent, Dalén, Love, Zhang, Guojie, Marquès-Bonet, Tomás, Gilbert, M Thomas P, Moodley, Yoshan and Yoder, Anne 2023. Historic sampling of a vanishing beast: Population structure and diversity in the Black Rhinoceros. Molecular Biology and Evolution 40 (9) , msad180. 10.1093/molbev/msad180

[thumbnail of msad180.pdf]
PDF - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

Download (1MB) | Preview


The black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis L.) is a critically endangered species historically distributed across sub-Saharan Africa. Hunting and habitat disturbance have diminished both its numbers and distribution since the 19th century, but a poaching crisis in the late 20th century drove them to the brink of extinction. Genetic and genomic assessments can greatly increase our knowledge of the species and inform management strategies. However, when a species has been severely reduced, with the extirpation and artificial admixture of several populations, it is extremely challenging to obtain an accurate understanding of historic population structure and evolutionary history from extant samples. Therefore, we generated and analyzed whole genomes from 63 black rhinoceros museum specimens collected between 1775 and 1981. Results showed that the black rhinoceros could be genetically structured into six major historic populations (Central Africa, East Africa, Northwestern Africa, Northeastern Africa, Ruvuma, and Southern Africa) within which were nested four further subpopulations (Maasailand, southwestern, eastern rift, and northern rift), largely mirroring geography, with a punctuated north–south cline. However, we detected varying degrees of admixture among groups and found that several geographical barriers, most prominently the Zambezi River, drove population discontinuities. Genomic diversity was high in the middle of the range and decayed toward the periphery. This comprehensive historic portrait also allowed us to ascertain the ancestry of 20 resequenced genomes from extant populations. Lastly, using insights gained from this unique temporal data set, we suggest management strategies, some of which require urgent implementation, for the conservation of the remaining black rhinoceros diversity.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISSN: 0737-4038
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 25 September 2023
Date of Acceptance: 10 August 2023
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2024 02:47

Actions (repository staff only)

Edit Item Edit Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics