Conservation Genetics

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 889–896 | Cite as

Conservation genetics of Boelen’s python (Morelia boeleni) from New Guinea: reduced genetic diversity and divergence of captive and wild animals

  • Christopher C. Austin
  • Marc Spataro
  • Stacy Peterson
  • Joshua Jordan
  • John D. McVay
Research Article


Boelen’s python (Morelia boeleni) is a montane New Guinea endemic found in highlands above 1000 m and below the tree line. The ecology, natural history, distribution, population size, and conservation status of this species are largely unknown. It has a protected status in Papua New Guinea but not in Indonesian Papua and several US and European zoos have active captive breeding programs that have been largely unsuccessful. To understand the degree of genetic diversity in wild and captive animals we undertook a genetic analysis of 90 M. boeleni for which we sequenced two mtDNA loci and one nuclear locus for a total of 1,418 bp of sequence data per individual. All 16 wild-caught M. boeleni from Indonesia and all captive M. boeleni are genetically uniform for all three loci. The single wild-caught animal from Papua New Guinea showed extremely low levels of genetic divergence and diversity from the Indonesian and captive samples. Data from two congeners, M. amethistina and M. viridis, suggests that M. boeleni have reduced genetic variation with a small effective population size possibly due to historical bottlenecks. These data demonstrate the need for further studies of genetic diversity of M. boeleni from across its range and raise particular concern for the limited genetic diversity of M. boeleni used captive breeding programs in zoological parks.


Indonesia MC1R mtDNA Population structure Snake 



We thank the following museums, zoological parks, and individuals for donating genetic material for the genetic work: The Denver, Fort Worth, Houston, Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, Riverside, St. Louis, and San Diego Zoos as well as the Bishop Museum; A. Allison, J. Baylin, R. Beard, D. Bellis, N. Bottini, N. Hoover, M. Jodney, T. Koegen, Y. Kuto, J. Leware, R. Maugg, F. Memmo, J. Rosenstarch, O. Robert, G. Schiavino, B. Simpson, M. Smith, J. Sola, D. Taylor, K. Tepedelen, S. Wari and G. Womer. We thank B. Roy, V. Kula, and B. Wilmot from the PNG Department of Environment and Conservation, and J. Robins from the PNG National Research Institute who have provided research assistance in Papua New Guinea. This manuscript was improved from comments from the Austin lab group. This research was funded by National Science Foundation grants DEB 0445213 and DBI 0400797 to CCA.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher C. Austin
    • 1
  • Marc Spataro
    • 2
  • Stacy Peterson
    • 1
  • Joshua Jordan
    • 1
  • John D. McVay
    • 1
  1. 1.Museum of Natural Science and Department of Biological Sciences, 119 Foster HallLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  2. 2.The Boelen’s Python Group, c/o Marc SpataroGlen ArmUSA

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