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Wild gazelles are scattered in most of the arid and semi-arid areas of the Sultanate of Oman particularly in valleys, mountains and sandy zones of Rub' al Khali desert. Recently, gazelles’ populations have been facing reduction in the numbers. Consequently, gradual loss of genetic diversity is inevitable. This loss is considered one of the main threats that attribute to a loss of habitat and may lead to gazelle extinction. Till now, little is known about the status of the genetic diversity of the wild Dhofari gazelle. This project aimed to determine the extent of inbreeding, population structure and genetic diversity in the Dhofari gazelles’ populations. DNA was extracted from gazelles’ fecal samples using the human stool DNA extraction protocol. Following extraction, four microsatellite nuclear markers were used to calculate the level of inbreeding, population differentiation and genetic diversity. PCR inhibitors were significantly removed by the addition of Bovine Serum Albumin (BSA) and dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO). The mean inbreeding for the population was 0.228 for all loci with a standard error of 0.09. It is therefore postulated that Dhofari gazelles are generally undergoing gradual inbreeding which could lead to lack of fitness in future generations. The genetic differentiation (Fst) ranged between 0.071 (between Gara and Stom) and 0.231 (between Gara and Ayon). On the other hand, the Fst estimate between Solot (most distant) versus other Dhofari gazelles populations (pooled together) was 3.7%. Principle Components Analysis clustered Ayon and Gara populations apart from one another and closer to Stom while placing Solot further than all other populations which is in agreement with the Fst results and the geographical distribution. In conclusion, the results of this preliminary study will provide insight towards the conservation of wild gazelles in Dhofar. This is the first study to report the genetic diversity and status of wild Gazelles and provides a reference point for future studies assessing their genetic diversity and variability.
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