South American camelids (SACs) have a major role in the maintenance and potential future of rural Andean human populations. More than 60% of the 3.7 million llamas living worldwide are found in Bolivia. Due to the lack of studies focusing on genetic diversity in Bolivian llamas, this analysis investigates both the genetic diversity and structure of 12 regional groups of llamas that span the greater part of the range of distribution for this species in Bolivia. The analysis of 42 microsatellite markers in the considered regional groups showed that, in general, there were high levels of polymorphism (a total of 506 detected alleles; average PIC across per marker: 0.66), which are comparable with those reported for other populations of domestic SACs. The estimated diversity parameters indicated that there was high intrapopulational genetic variation (average number of alleles and average expected heterozygosity per marker: 12.04 and 0.68, respectively) and weak genetic differentiation among populations (FST range: 0.003-0.052). In agreement with these estimates, Bolivian llamas showed a weak genetic structure and an intense gene flow between all the studied regional groups, which is due to the exchange of reproductive males between the different flocks. Interestingly, the groups for which the largest pairwise FST estimates were observed, Sud Lípez and Nor Lípez, showed a certain level of genetic differentiation that is probably due to the pattern of geographic isolation and limited communication infrastructures of these southern localities. Overall, the population parameters reported here may serve as a reference when establishing conservation policies that address Bolivian llama populations.
- Genetic diversity
- Population structure