Open Access Research article

The role of chromosome variation in the speciation of the red brocket deer complex: the study of reproductive isolation in females

Marina Suzuki Cursino12*, Maurício Barbosa Salviano3, Vanessa Veltrini Abril1, Eveline dos Santos Zanetti1 and José Maurício Barbanti Duarte12

Author Affiliations

1 NUPECCE - Núcleo de Pesquisa e Conservação de Cervídeos, Departamento de Zootecnia, FCAV -Faculdade de Ciências Agrárias e Veterinárias, UNESP– Universidade Estadual Paulista, CEP 14884-900, Jaboticabal, SP, Brazil

2 Programa de Pós-graduação em Medicina Veterinária, Reprodução Animal, FCAV, UNESP, CEP 14884-900 Jaboticabal, SP, Brazil

3 Laboratory of Embryology and Biotechniques of Reproduction, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Postal 15004, 91501-970 Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2014, 14:40  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-14-40

Published: 4 March 2014



The red brocket deer, Mazama americana, has at least six distinct karyotypes in different regions of South America that suggest the existence of various species that are today all referred to as M. americana. From an evolutionary perspective, the red brockets are a relatively recent clade that has gone through intense diversification. This study sought to prove the existence of post-zygotic reproductive isolation in deer offspring between distinct chromosome lineages. To achieve this, inter-cytotype and intra-cytotype crosses were performed, which resulted in both F1 hybrid (n = 5) and pure offspring (n = 3) in captivity.


F1 females were analyzed in terms of their karyotypes, ovarian histology, estrous cycles and in vitro embryo production. Pure females presented parameters that were similar to those previously reported for M. Americana; however, the parameters for hybrid females were different. Two hybrids were determined to be sterile, while the remaining hybrids presented characteristics of subfertility.


The results support the existence of well-established reproductive isolation among the most distant karyotype lineages and elucidates the need to define all karyotype variants and their geographical ranges in order to define the number of species of red brocket.

Cryptic species; Hybrids; Chromosomal polymorphism; Mazama americana