Guinea baboons are heavily hunted for bushmeat consumption in Guinea-Bissau. We investigated whether hunting-driven mortality has affected population structure in this generalist primate using two genetic markers. Sampling was conducted in protected areas separated by anthropogenic landscape features. We predicted significant genetic differentiation between samples and investigated whether genetic discontinuities in the data were concordant with the location of human infrastructures. Genetic diversity was not significantly reduced when compared with a neighbouring population in Senegal and we inferred historically female-biased dispersal and recent contact between localities. Evidence was found for a contact zone between genetically differentiated populations where gene-flow is unidirectional, admixed individuals are at a higher proportion and individuals differentiated for both genetic markers co-exist within the same social units. Genetic discontinuities were, however, unrelated to anthropogenic dispersal barriers and we could not explain the existence of a contact zone by geographic distance, habitat type or the effect of social structure. We propose that hunting practices have affected the population structure by increasing dispersal distances, facilitating contact between previously separated gene pools within social groups. We suggest that hunting-related density sinks found in areas where the quality of the habitat remains adequate could precipitate the immigration of genetically distinct individuals from distant populations. Alternatively, migrants found in protected areas might be avoiding hunters, in locations they may perceive as less disturbed. This study suggests that hunting practices must be considered when investigating genetic patterns in primates and underlines the utility of molecular approaches to detect population perturbations due to bushmeat hunting.
Journal: Conservation Genetics