Sheep of the Pantaneiro breed and seven other breeds, raised in the State of Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil, were genotyped using eight microsatellite loci. The aim of the present study was to determine the genetic variability, phylogenetic relationship, and patterns of gene introgression and miscegenation among the animals surveyed, to obtain information about the genetic structure of locally adapted sheep in Mato Grosso do Sul. A total of 195 animals were used for genetic analysis. The Pantaneiro breed had the largest average number of alleles/locus (9.25), and higher allelic richness (6.95), while the Dorper population had the lowest values for these parameters (4.88 and 3.86, respectively). Analysis of genetic distance values and genetic structure between populations made it possible to characterize these animals with regard to distinct genetic groups. Average expected heterozygosity ranged from 0.72 (Pantaneiro) to 0.55 (Dorper), while average observed heterozygosity ranged from 0.63 (White Dorper) to 0.54 (Dorper). On the basis of the statistical parameters evaluated, it was possible to demonstrate that when compared to other populations, the Pantaneiro breed represented a reservoir of genetic diversity with rare and useful alleles for genetic improvement, emphasizing the importance of preserving the breed.
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