Name: Sousa F

Biodeserts supervisors: Boratyński ZBrito JC

Title: Biogeography and conservation of an endemic rodent, Felovia vae, from the mountains of Mauritania

Institution: University of Porto

Status: Completed




Sahara-Sahel biodiversity is poorly known comparing with the neighboring areas. In order to mitigate the biodiversity loss, we need to increase our knowledge about species diversity, distribution, ecology and evolutionary processes, to define priorities for biodiversity conservation planning. Felovia vae is an endemic rodent from West Africa with a lack of knowledge concerning its local distribution patterns and ecological parameters, being categorized as Data Deficient by IUCN.

The main goal of this study was to perform an evaluation of the genetic structure of this species in the mountains of Mauritania, by sequencing cytochrome b. Molecular data of this marker was obtained from 36 samples, but only 31 were used in analyzes. Phylogenetic trees and haplotype networks were constructed and diversity indexes and genetic distances were calculated.

Results suggested: 1) the existence of two distinct clades, one located in northern regions of Adrar Atar and Tagant and the other clade in Assaba mountain. These clades meet in sympatry in two regions, one between Tagant and Assaba and the other in Guelta Goumbel; 2) the unsuitable habitats that currently separates populations of the Adrar Atar from the Tagant did not constituted an effective barrier to dispersion in the past, suggesting the dispersal capabilities of this species over large distances; 3) a possible past extinction of southern clade proceeded by recolonisation by the northern clade could have occurred, or these clades could have been isolated and some individuals of the northern clade possibly reached the southern region; and 4) high values of nucleotidic and haplotypic diversity highlighted the importance of these mountains as hotspots of biodiversity.

This study enhances the connectivity in the past between the current putative isolated subpopulations, identifying two main groups that must be taken into account as two conservation units for future conservation plans for the species.