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The ecology and host parasite dynamics of a fauna translocation in Australia

Dunlop, Judy (2015) The ecology and host parasite dynamics of a fauna translocation in Australia. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Despite the frequency of fauna translocations as a technique to improve the conservation status of threatened species, new populations frequently fail to establish. Translocations often lack experimental manipulation to determine ‘best practice’ methods to improve success. One poorly understood element of translocation science is the impact of parasites and disease-­‐causing pathogens on the animals moved and the ecosystem they are moved into. Of 58 published Australian translocations in the last 40 years, only 20 (35%) employed any level of parasite management, despite potential contribution of disease to initial fauna declines.

I closely investigated a translocation of boodies (Bettongia lesueur) from Barrow Island and Dryandra to Lorna Glen, and ‘island dwarf’ golden bandicoots (Isoodon auratus) from Barrow Island to Lorna Glen and Hermite Island. Bandicoots born into the new populations showed an increased skeletal size and body mass (males) and reproductive output in the number and average size of young (females). These changes occurred within 18 months of release, suggesting that responses were due to phenotypic plasticity, rather than selective pressure occurring over many generations. I conclude that the small size of bandicoots on Barrow Island is a response to resource limitation, rather than true island dwarfism.

I determined the impact on parasite load and survivorship of translocated animals by treating half the population with a topical antiparasitic. Despite frequent trapping (six-­‐ weekly) and very high recapture rate (64–99%), repeated dosage did not significantly impact ectoparasite or haemoparasite infection, or survival of the marsupials. I observed transmission of parasites between animals of different origin and to offspring, and a decline in species diversity present in the translocated population due to the failure of some species to persist.

This thesis identified knowledge gaps in the translocation literature and addressed some key concepts of species ecology, population dynamics and parasitology via post-translocation monitoring.

Publication Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Supervisor: Thompson, Andrew, Morris, K. and Godfrey, Stephanie
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