Geographic Microsatellite Variability in Central American Howling Monkeys

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In 1997, we began to assess the genetic variability and the potential conservation risk of the increasing human impact on the howling monkeys of Ometepe Island in southern Nicaragua. We captured and collected blood from 29 howling monkeys (Alouatta palliata) at two geographically separated localities in a single area (San Ramon) on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua, during two field seasons. We also collected blood from a community of 10 Alouatta pigra in the Scotland Half Moon region in Belize. We extracted DNA from the blood and analyzed 12 microsatellite loci. The number of alleles per locus (allele variability) is less for most (but not all) loci in the Ometepe versus the Belize sample and less than earlier published reports of mixed geographic samples from Central America. The results are noteworthy in that both the Ometepe Island sample and the Belize sample possess greater allelic heterozygosity for most loci than reported in other Central American howling monkey populations. The Ometepe and Belize groups also demonstrated differences in allele frequencies at each geographic location. There appeared to be adequate gene flow in both locations despite extensive fragmentation due to agriculture and other human land usage.

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