Population genetic structure of Guizhou snub-nosed monkeys (Rhinopithecus brelichi) as inferred from mitochondrial control region sequences, and comparison with R. roxellana and R. bieti


The Guizhou snub‐nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus brelichi) is a primate species endemic to the Wuling Mountains in southern China. With a maximum of 800 wild animals, the species is endangered and one of the rarest Chinese primates. To assess the genetic diversity within R. brelichi and to analyze its genetic population structure, we collected fecal samples from the wild R. brelichi population and sequenced the hypervariable region I of the mitochondrial control region from 141 individuals. We compared our data with those from the two other Chinese snub‐nosed species (R. roxellana, R. bieti) and reconstructed their phylogenetic relationships and divergence times. With only five haplotypes and a maximum of 25 polymorphic sites, R. brelichi shows the lowest genetic diversity in terms of haplotype diversity (h), nucleotide diversity (π), and average number of pairwise nucleotide differences (Π). The most recent common ancestor of R. brelichi lived ∼0.36 million years ago (Ma), thus more recently than those of R. roxellana (∼0.91 Ma) and R. bieti (∼1.33 Ma). Phylogenetic analysis and analysis of molecular variance revealed a clear and significant differentiation among the three Chinese snub‐nosed monkey species. Population genetic analyses (Tajima’s D, Fu’s Fs, and mismatch distribution) suggest a stable population size for R. brelichi. For the other two species, results point in the same direction, but population substructure possibly introduces some ambiguity. Because of the lower genetic variation, the smaller population size and the more restricted distribution, R. brelichi might be more vulnerable to environmental changes or climate oscillations than the other two Chinese snub‐nosed monkey species.

American Journal of Physical Anthropology 147: 1-10