Conservation genetics and species status of an endangered Australian dragon, Tympanocryptis pinguicolla (Reptilia: Agamidae)
We present a phylogenetic and morphological study of the grassland earless dragon, Tympanocryptis pinguicolla, an endangered habitat specialist that occurs in a few isolated populations in eastern Australia. Tympanocryptis pinguicolla occurred historically in Victoria in south-eastern Australia, but has not been seen since 1990, and current populations are known in New South Wales and Canberra in south-eastern Australia. Recently, new populations identified as T. pinguicolla were discovered on the Darling Downs, Queensland. Translocation of individuals between these populations has been suggested as a conservation management strategy to maintain genetic diversity. To address this issue, we undertook a phylogenetic study of all major populations of T. pinguicolla using a 1838 bp region of mitochondrial DNA, incorporating ND1, ND2, COI and eight tRNA genes. We incorporated specialized degraded-DNA techniques to amplify DNA from historical museum specimens, as no extant tissue was available for Victorian populations. Our results, which include morphological analysis, provide convincing evidence that populations currently identified as T.␣pinguicolla do not comprise a monophyletic species, as the populations from the Darling Downs are more closely related to T. tetraporophora than to T. pinguicolla. In addition, we find that there is a significant level of haplotype divergence between populations of T. pinguicolla, indicating that these lineages separated at least 1.5 mya. Our results suggest translocation may not be an appropriate management strategy and our findings that Darling Downs populations are not T.␣pinguicolla will significantly influence the conservation management of this species in Queensland.