Diversity and structure of Bettongia tropica: using population genetics to guide reintroduction and help prevent the extinction of an endangered Australian marsupial

Todd, Stephanie J., McKnight, Donald T., Congdon, Brad C., Pierson, Jennifer, Fischer, Manuela, Abell, Sandra, and Koleck, Jessica (2023) Diversity and structure of Bettongia tropica: using population genetics to guide reintroduction and help prevent the extinction of an endangered Australian marsupial. Conservation Genetics. (In Press)

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Conservation translocations can restore populations and prevent extinction of threatened species. Sourcing adequate genetic diversity is an essential consideration when planning reintroductions, because it influences individual fitness and long-term persistence of populations, yet available populations of threatened species may lack diversity. We estimated population genetic parameters for one of Australia’s most threatened mammals, the northern bettong, Bettongia tropica, to select source populations for reintroduction. Individuals from sites across the species’ extant range in the Wet Tropics of north Queensland were genotyped, using 6,133 informative SNPs. We found that samples clustered into four populations: an isolated northern population at Mt Spurgeon and three connected southern populations in the Lamb Range. Most of the species’ genetic diversity was dispersed across the Lamb Range populations in approximately equal proportions. Populations showed an isolation-by-distance effect, even over short distances within continuous habitat. Admixture of populations was high at distances < 7 km but low at distances > 11 km, and there was asymmetrical gene flow between the two closest neighboring populations. All populations had small effective sizes and experienced drift, but connectivity appears to have mitigated drift and stabilized population sizes within the Lamb Range. The Mt Spurgeon population had a very small effective population size and low genetic diversity. We use our findings to weigh up the risks and benefits of mixing sources for reintroduction, and we recommend a mixed source approach. We do not currently recommend sourcing individuals from Mt Spurgeon and conservation efforts to preserve this population are urgently required.

Item ID: 78977
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1572-9737
Keywords: Genetic drift, Inbreeding depression, Population genetics, Source selection, Threatened species, Translocation
Copyright Information: © The Author(s) 2023. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Date Deposited: 07 Nov 2023 22:50
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3105 Genetics > 310599 Genetics not elsewhere classified @ 25%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3104 Evolutionary biology > 310499 Evolutionary biology not elsewhere classified @ 25%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410401 Conservation and biodiversity @ 50%
SEO Codes: 28 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 2801 Expanding knowledge > 280102 Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences @ 100%
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