EUGENE, Ore. -- (Feb. 29, 2012) -- A rare and endangered monkey in an African equatorial rainforest is providing a look into our climatic future through its DNA. Its genes show that wild drills (Mandrillus leucophaeus), already an overhunted species, may see a dramatic population decline if the forest dries out and vegetation becomes sparser amid warming temperatures, researchers report.
Looking for clues amid 2,076 base pairs of mitochondrial DNA -- genes passed down along female lineages -- researchers discovered genetic signs that coincide with the conditions that mirror current climate projections for the equator around the globe in the next 100 years. Also examined were the region's fossil and pollen records.
"The drills went through a large population collapse -- as much as 15-fold," said Nelson Ting, a professor of anthropology at the University of Oregon. Ting is the lead author of a study placed online ahead of regular publication in the journal Ecology and Evolution. "This occurred sometime around the mid-Holocene, which was about 3,000 to 5,000 years ago."
Ting and 10 other researchers -- representing institutions in the United States, United Kingdom, Nigeria and Germany -- gathered feces of drills in the Cross-Sanaga-Bioko Coastal forests that stretch across portions of Nigeria, Bioko Island (Equatorial Guinea) and Cameroon. The extracted DNA provided the first genetic information from this species, which is found only in that region.
The species also is struggling for survival because of poaching and by habitat loss due to logging and cultivation activities. Drill meat also is a valued food; hunters often shoot them en masse. Protecting drill populations was the top priority of the African Primate Conservation Action Plan developed in 1996 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Despite the designation, Ting said, "hunting continues and is the much more immediate danger facing th
|Contact: Jim Barlow|
University of Oregon