Research Articles

Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor as a nomadic species in African shallow alkaline lakes and pans: genetic structure and future perspectives

Published in: Ostrich: Journal of African Ornithology
Volume 82, issue 2, 2011, pages: 95–100
DOI: 10.2989/00306525.2011.603463
Author(s): Serena ZaccaraDepartment of Structural and Functional Biology, Italy, Giuseppe CrosaDepartment of Structural and Functional Biology, Italy, Isabella VanettiDepartment of Biotechnology and Molecular Sciences, Italy, Giorgio BinelliDepartment of Biotechnology and Molecular Sciences, Italy, Brooks Childress, UK, Graham McCullochDepartment of Zoology, Ireland, DavidM HarperDepartment of Ornithology, Kenya


The Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor is a nomadic species, which inhabits shallow alkaline lakes and pans in sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia. The extent of genetic diversity and the degree of differentiation within and among populations are important factors to determine in order to help manage and conserve the species, categorised as Near Threatened by the IUCN. This study provides an assessment of the population structure of the two largest African populations of P. minor by genotyping six microsatellite loci from 30 individuals sampled on Lake Bogoria (Kenya) and 11 individuals from Makgadikgadi Sua Pan (Botswana). The alleles detected per locus ranged from four to 13. The Lake Bogoria population harboured 15 specific alleles, whereas the Makgadikgadi Sua Pan population only six alleles. Moderate genetic diversity (He = 0.64–0.69) was comparable with populations that have not suffered from demographic bottlenecks or inbreeding. The populations are genetically similar with little differentiation (FST and RST not significantly different from zero). Small but continuous gene flow (the estimated average number of individuals exchanged is 3–4 per generation) was found, probably reflecting the bird's nomadic behaviour and the natural presence of temporary shallow waters between the two sampled populations. The results suggest that inbreeding effects at present are unlikely, and hence that the loss and/or degradation of its specialised habitat remains the primary concern for the species’ continued survival.

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