The black muntjac (Muntiacus crinifrons) is a rare species endemic to China and its current distribution is confined to partial mountain ranges in eastern China. To assess the population structure and gene flow among the extant populations, we sequenced a portion of the mitochondrial control region (424 bp) for 47 samples collected from its current three large populations (Huangshan, Tiammushan and Suichang). A total of 18 unique haplotypes were defined based on 22 polymorphic sites. Of these haplotypes, 15 ones were population-specific and only one haplotype was shared among the three populations. Significant genetic differentiation was detected between Suichang and Huangshan populations (∅ST=0.1677, P<0.001) or between Suichang and Tianmushan populations (∅ST=0.2002, P<0.001), indicating that the Suichang population may be spatially structured from other two populations along matriline. The Mantel test revealed that this significant differentiation was not driven by geographic distance (P=0.14), implying that genetic divergence of Suichang population might result from recent human disturbances. Phylogenetic analyses suggested the mitochondrial control region haplotypes were split into two well divergent clades (Clade I and Clade II). Interestingly, the two distinct haplotype clades were found to coexist in Suichang area. The nested clade analysis revealed a significant phylogeographic structure among the black muntjac populations (total cladogram: χ2=18.68; P<0.001), which was inferred to result from past fragmentation followed by range expansion. The population expansion was supported by the analysis of mismatch distribution and the tests of neutrality. Therefore, we suggest that the coexistence of distinct haplotypes in Suichang population was induced by historical population expansion after fragmentation and that the current genetic differentiation should be attributed to the reduction of female-mediated gene flow due to recent habitat fragmentation and subsequent loss.
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