Genetic monitoring of the greater stick-nest rat meta-population for strategic supplementation planning

Lauren C. White, Vicki A. Thomson, Rebecca West, Laura Ruykys, Kym Ottewell, John Kanowski, Katherine E. Moseby, Margaret Byrne, Stephen C. Donnellan, Peter Copley, Jeremy J. Austin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Translocation is an increasingly common component of species conservation efforts. However, translocated populations often suffer from loss of genetic diversity and increased inbreeding, and thus may require active management to establish gene flow across isolated populations. Assisted gene flow can be laborious and costly, so recipient and source populations should be carefully chosen to maximise genetic diversity outcomes. The greater stick-nest rat (GSNR, Leporillus conditor), a threatened Australian rodent, has been the focus of a translocation program since 1985, resulting in five extant translocated populations (St Peter Island, Reevesby Island, Arid Recovery, Salutation Island and Mt Gibson), all derived from a remnant wild population on the East and West Franklin Islands. We evaluated the genetic diversity in all extant GSNR populations using a large single nucleotide polymorphism dataset with the explicit purpose of informing future translocation planning. Our results show varying levels of genetic divergence, inbreeding and loss of genetic diversity in all translocated populations relative to the remnant source on the Franklin Islands. All translocated populations would benefit from supplementation to increase genetic diversity, but two—Salutation Island and Mt Gibson—are of highest priority. We recommend a targeted admixture approach, in which animals for supplementation are sourced from populations that have low relatedness to the recipient population. Subject to assessment of contemporary genetic diversity, St Peter Island and Arid Recovery are the most appropriate source populations for genetic supplementation. Our study demonstrates an effective use of genetic surveys for data-driven management of threatened species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)941-956
Number of pages16
JournalConservation Genetics
Volume21
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes

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