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Evaluating success of translocations in maintaining genetic diversity in a threatened mammal

Ottewell, K., Dunlop, J., Thomas, N., Morris, K., Coates, D. and Byrne, M. (2014) Evaluating success of translocations in maintaining genetic diversity in a threatened mammal. Biological Conservation, 171 . pp. 209-219.

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The effectiveness of fauna reintroduction programs has been limited by the availability of source animals and the lack of follow up monitoring to assess whether viable populations have been successfully established, particularly in terms of conserving genetic diversity. Here we present genetic assessment of the translocation of golden bandicoots (Isoodon auratus) from a large source population on Barrow Island off the north-west coast of Western Australia to two other island sites and a mainland fenced enclosure. We assessed the genetic diversity of animals translocated to each site and their wild-born progeny, and whether wild-born animals showed evidence of genetic bottlenecks or genetic drift from the source population. Encouragingly, we found no significant loss of genetic diversity in any of the wild-born populations compared to the source population and no significant increase in inbreeding or relatedness amongst wild-born individuals compared to founder populations two years post-translocation. However, we detected an approximately 10-fold reduction in effective population size between founding and wild-born populations. We found no apparent differentiation between wild-born populations and the original source population, or between wild-born animals and their respective founders. Population viability modeling predicts that each of the translocated populations is susceptible to loss of genetic diversity over time. Taken together these results suggest that the golden bandicoot reintroduction program has been initially successful as a result of large founding sizes and high reproductive rates; however, ongoing augmentation will be required to prevent genetic erosion and maintain evolutionary potential in the long-term.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Elsevier BV
Copyright: © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.
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