Patterns of genetic dispersion, levels of population genetic structure, and movement of the neotropical river otter (Lontra longicaudis) were investigated by screening eight polymorphic microsatellites from DNA extracted from fecal samples, collected in a hydrologic system of the Lacandon rainforest in Chiapas, Mexico. A total of 34 unique genotypes were detected from our surveys along six different rivers, and the effect of landscape genetic structure was studied. We recovered 16 of the 34 individuals in multiple rivers at multiple times. We found high levels of dispersion and low levels of genetic differentiation among otters from the six surveyed rivers (P > 0.05), except for the pairwise comparison among the Lacantún and José rivers (P < 0.05). We recommend that conservation management plans for the species consider the entire Lacantún River System and its tributaries as a single management unit to ensure the maintenance of current levels of population genetic diversity, because the population analyzed seems to follow a source–sink dynamic mainly determined by the existence of the major river.
Assignment test, Chiapas, Lacandon rainforest, Low genetic structure, Microsatellites, Neotropical river otter
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