Endangered Père David’s deer genome provides insights into population recovering

Lifeng Zhu, Cao Deng, Xiang Zhao, Jingjing Ding, Huasheng Huang, Shilin Zhu, Zhiwen Wang, Shishang Qin, Yuhua Ding, Guoqing Lu, Zhisong Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The Milu (Père David's deer, Elaphurus davidianus) were once widely distributed in the swamps (coastal areas to inland areas) of East Asia. The dramatic recovery of the Milu population is now deemed a classic example of how highly endangered animal species can be rescued. However, the molecular mechanisms that underpinned this population recovery remain largely unknown. Here, different approaches (genome sequencing, resequencing, and salinity analysis) were utilized to elucidate the aforementioned molecular mechanisms. The comparative genomic analyses revealed that the largest recovered Milu population carries extensive genetic diversity despite an extreme population bottleneck. And the protracted inbreeding history might have facilitated the purging of deleterious recessive alleles. Seventeen genes that are putatively related to reproduction, embryonic (fatal) development, and immune response were under high selective pressure. Besides, SCNN1A, a gene involved in controlling reabsorption of sodium in the body, was positively selected. An additional 29 genes were also observed to be positively selected, which are involved in blood pressure regulation, cardiovascular development, cholesterol regulation, glycemic control, and thyroid hormone synthesis. It is possible that these genetic adaptations were required to buffer the negative effects commonly associated with a high-salt diet. The associated genetic adaptions are likely to have enabled increased breeding success and fetal survival. The future success of Milu population management might depend on the successful reintroduction of the animal to historically important distribution regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2040-2053
Number of pages14
JournalEvolutionary Applications
Issue number10
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • Père David's deer
  • breeding success
  • population recovering
  • selective pressure
  • the high-salt diet

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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