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Demographic history of the fragmented yellow-throated bulbul (Pycnonotus xantholaemus) population in the Deccan Peninsula, India

Ashish Jha*, Karthikeyan Vasudevan

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The yellow-throated bulbul (YTB) is an endemic passerine restricted to the scrub forests along the hill slopes with exposed rocky outcrops in the Deccan peninsula, India. It is found in small and discontinuous populations and it is vulnerable to extinction due to ongoing habitat loss and subsequent population decline. To assess the genetic connectivity and past demography, we sequenced 1050 nucleotide base pairs of the mitochondrial control region of 60 individuals that represent distinct populations in the geographic range of the species. We recovered 39 haplotypes defined by 81 variable sites. Haplotype diversity was high with low nucleotide diversity, suggesting rapid population growth from a founder population with a small effective population size. Negative values of Tajima’s D and Fu’s Fs, and small positive value of Ramos-Onsins and Rozas’ R2 suggest deviation from neutrality and population expansion. The haplotype network and the demographic expansion parameters further suggest historical population expansion. Mismatch analysis statistics and Bayesian skyline plot estimate population expansion during the late Pleistocene. Although the species presently occurs in small, disconnected populations, there was no structuring of population. Dispersal events are the most likely explanation for the absence of genetic structuring in the YTB population. These results represent important data to design the conservation plan for this endemic and globally threatened species.