I am currently studying the Puerto Rican Boa (Epicrates inornatus), along with Alberto R. Puente-Rolón (UIPR, Arecibo) and Liam Revell (UMass Boston). We are examining the phylogeography and conservation genetics of this species, as well as the adaptations to cave use. I also developed microsatellite markers for this species using Illumina next-gen sequencing.
Using two mitochondrial markers sequenced across 86 boas from 15 municipalities , we found three haplogroups and an apparent lack of phylogeographic structure across the island of Puerto Rico. We are currently expanding this work with the de novo development of dozens of species-specific microsatellite markers generated from Illumina shotgun sequencing.
We generated the first genetic study of the Puerto Rican boa, and we examined and compared genetic diversity and divergence among two cave populations and two surface populations of boas. We found that the two cave populations appear no less diverse than the two surface populations, and harbor multiple mtDNA lineages. Based on these results, we strongly encourage the immediate protection of the remaining cave-associated populations of boas.
Caves and Karst
We are currently surveying caves throughout Puerto Rico to determine the extent of cave use and the reliance on karst habitat in this species. The intention is to characterize targets for conservation centered around caves that harbor bat roosts. We have received a 2012 grant from US Fish and Wildlife for this work.
UMass Boston undergraduates Tiara (far left) and Karen conducted lab work to develop and characterize novel genetic markers for this species. They are coauthors on the resulting manuscript in Conservation Genetics Resources.
Publications from this research:
Puente-Rolón, A.R., R.G. Reynolds, and L.J. Revell. 2013. Preliminary genetic analysis supports cave populations as targets for conservation in the endemic endangered Puerto Rican boa (Epicrates inornatus). PLoS ONE 8(5): e63899.
Reynolds, R.G., A.R. Puente-Rolón, K. Kolodzaike, and T. Butler-Smith. 2014. Isolation and characterization of 23 novel polymorphic microsatellite markers from the endangered Puerto Rican boa (Chilabothrus inornatus) using paired-end Illumina shotgun sequencing. Conservation Genetics Resources 6: 107-109.