Understanding Historical Demographic Processes to Inform Contemporary Conservation of an Arid zone Specialist: The Yellow-Footed Rock-Wallaby

Sally Potter, Linda E. Neaves, Mark Lethbridge, Mark D.B. Eldridge

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Abstract

Little genetic research has been undertaken on mammals across the vast expanse of the arid biome in Australia, despite continuing species decline and need for conservation management. Here, we evaluate the contemporary and historical genetic connectivity of the yellow-footed rock-wallaby, Petrogalexanthopusxanthopus, a threatened macropodid which inhabits rocky outcrops across the disconnected mountain range systems of the southern arid biome. We use 17 microsatellite loci together with mitochondrial control region data to determine the genetic diversity of populations and the evolutionary processes shaping contemporary population dynamics on which to base conservation recommendations. Our results indicate the highly fragmented populations have reduced diversity and limited contemporary gene flow, with most populations having been through population bottlenecks. Despite limited contemporary gene flow, the phylogeographic relationships of the mitochondrial control region indicate a lack of structure and suggests greater historical connectivity. This is an emerging outcome for mammals across this arid region. On the basis of our results, we recommend augmentation of populations of P. x.xanthopus, mixing populations from disjunct mountain range systems to reduce the chance of continued diversity loss and inbreeding depression, and therefore maximize the potential for populations to adapt and survive into the future.

Original languageEnglish
Article number154
Number of pages24
JournalGenes
Volume11
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020

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Keywords

  • arid zone
  • conservation genetics
  • macropodid
  • marsupial

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