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Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectum) Population Genetics–Evolutionary Insights and Implications for Co

Edwards, Taylor University of Arizona Genetics Core University of Arizona Tucson, Arizona, USA

Farrar, Victoria Sophia College of Biological Sciences Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior University of California – Davis Davis, California USA

Bonine, Kevin Edward Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology University of Arizona Tucson, Arizona, USA

Biosphere 2 University of Arizona Tucson, Arizona, USA

We conducted the first population study of the Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectum) at Saguaro National Park, Arizona to examine genetic diversity, assess demographic history and estimate effective population size. Using 18 microsatellite markers and 1195 bp of mitochondrial DNA sequence data, in conjunction with capture-recapture methods, we estimated total and effective population size of the approximately 80 km2 study area. We determined that the population protected within the National Park is healthy and robust. These data provide a crucial population genetic baseline for the species that can be used to monitor population trends at the park and throughout the species range. From this initial study, we can infer biogeographic patterns on a broader, geographic range through comparison with the phylogenetic and population genetic patterns of other Sonoran Desert reptiles, however, expanding the analyses to include additional populations throughout their range is necessary to better understand Gila Monster population viability.

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