Genetic structure, diversity and distribution of a threatened lizard affected by widespread habitat fragmentation

Anna F. Senior, Nick Clemann, Michael G. Gardner, Katherine A. Harrisson, Geoffrey M. While, David G. Chapple

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Understanding the demographic consequences of habitat loss on populations is essential for the conservation of threatened species. The threatened swamp skink (Lissolepis coventryi) is restricted to fragmented wetland habitats in Victoria and southeast South Australia. It has experienced significant habitat loss in the last 150 years, particularly around the Melbourne metropolitan area, where several small and isolated populations remain. Using mtDNA and nuDNA SNPs, we examined distribution patterns and population structure to infer evolutionary history and genetic distinctiveness of populations throughout the species’ range. For populations in the Melbourne metropolitan area, we examined genetic diversity. We found the species to be highly divergent, separating into two distinct lineages to the east and west of Melbourne, likely due to geological and climate influences causing isolation of populations. Species’ detectability was low, particularly in the far east despite relatively intact habitat and presumed higher abundance. Melbourne populations showed signs of limited genetic diversity. We suggest that translocations to promote gene diversity amongst these populations, together with habitat restoration and protection, present an important management strategy for L. coventryi.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalConservation Genetics
Early online date25 Oct 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Oct 2021

Keywords

  • Australia
  • Habitat loss
  • Lissolepis coventryi
  • Swamp skink
  • Threatened species

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