Sable antelope is one of the enigmatic large antelope species of Africa. Four (4) subspecies were originally described based on phenotypic differences across their range (Ansell 1971). DNA data (Pitra et al, Mol Ecol 2002 volume 11, pages 1197 – 1208) uncovered the existence of three (3) genetic groups with some correspondence to the subspecies described by Ansell. The most striking difference was that sable antelope naturally occurring in Zambia was not that different to those south of the Zambezi River, with a unique and very distinct group of antelope in Tanzania. In 2006, we documented the re-discovery of the giant sable in Angola; these magnificent animals were believed extinct due to civil unrest. In 2010, following years of speculation in the popular media, we demonstrated that animals originally brought to South Africa from Western Zambia group with others from Zambia and are very different to Giant sable.
A complete understanding of the evolutionary history of a species, including current management, requires information from both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA. Through a large, multi-national collaborations, the CIBIO / InBio [https://cibio.up.pt] developed a suite of 57 microsatellite markers for sable antelope. The development of such a unique set of markers allows for a refined and unprecedented understanding of sable antelope evolution. Through this, we are now able to provide important data to guide sable antelope conservation and management.
The collaboration include researchers from CIBIO / InBio in Portugal (Prof Nuno Ferrand, Dr Raquel Godinho, Pedro Vaz Pinto), the MolZooLab at the University of Johannesburg (Bettine van Vuuren) and the University of Copenhagen (Hans Siegismund) [http://research.ku.dk].