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Genetics, ecology, and conservation of the Asian elephant.


I have investigated the genetics and ecology of the Asian elephant, Elephas maximus, and the implications for its conservation and management. Logistic constraints and the conservation status of Asian elephants makes procurement of samples for genetic analysis from free ranging individuals difficult. The use of dung as a source of DNA was a possible solution but posed some technical difficulties. I developed a technique which overcame these problems and demonstrated that dung was a reliable source of DNA for the study of elephants. The technique is applicable to a wide range of taxa including birds, reptiles and insects. Using this technique and PCR amplification and sequencing of mitochondrial DNA, I analyzed population structure and phylogeography of Asian elephants. Populations were significantly subdivided at continental and regional levels. Individuals of two clades with a Pliocene divergence coexisted at some locations. Shared genotypes between the mainland and Sri Lanka refuted the putative subspecies status of Sri Lankan elephants.