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Genealogical Relationship Inference To Identify Areas Of Intensive Poaching Of The Orange-fronted Parakeet (Eupsittula Canicularis)

Gabriela Padilla-Jacobo, Tiberio C. Monterrubio-Rico, Horacio Cano-Camacho, María Guadalupe Zavala-Páramo

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Abstract Background The Orange-fronted Parakeet (Eupsittula canicularis) is the Mexican psittacine that is most captured for the illegal pet trade. However, as for most wildlife exploited by illegal trade, the genetic diversity that is extracted from species and areas of intensive poaching is unknown. In this study, we analyzed the genetic diversity of 80 E. canicularis parakeets confiscated from the illegal trade and estimated the level of extraction of genetic diversity by poaching using the mitochondrial DNA sequences of cytochrome b (Cytb). In addition, we analyzed the genealogical and haplotypic relationships of the poached parakeets and sampled wild populations in Mexico, as a strategy for identifying the places of origin of poached parakeets. Results Poached parakeets showed high haplotype diversity (Hd = 0.842) and low nucleotide diversity (Pi = 0.00182). Among 22 haplotypes identified, 18 were found exclusively in 37 individuals, while four were detected in the remaining 43 individuals and shared with the wild populations. A rarefaction and extrapolation curve revealed that 240 poached individuals can include up to 47 haplotypes and suggested that the actual haplotype richness of poached parakeets is higher than our analyses indicate. The geographic locations of the four haplotypes shared between poached and wild parakeets ranged from Michoacan to Sinaloa, Mexico. However, the rare haplotypes detected in poached parakeets were derived from a recent genetic expansion of the species that has occurred between the northwest of Michoacan and the coastal region of Colima, Jalisco and southern Nayarit, Mexico. Conclusions Poached parakeets showed high genetic diversity, suggesting high extraction of the genetic pool of the species in central Mexico. Rarefaction and extrapolation analyses suggest that the actual haplotype richness in poached parakeets is higher than reflected by our analyses. The poached parakeets belong mainly to a very diverse genetic group of the species, and their most likely origin is between northern Michoacan and southern Nayarit, Mexico. We found no evidence that poachers included individuals from Central American international trafficking with individuals from Mexico in the sample.