Conservation Genetics

, Volume 11, Issue 6, pp 2105–2120

East–west genetic differentiation in Musk Ducks (Biziura lobata) of Australia suggests late Pleistocene divergence at the Nullarbor Plain


    • Department of ZoologyUniversity of Melbourne
    • School of Engineering and Science, Institute for Sustainability and InnovationVictoria University, St-Albans
  • R. T. Chesser
    • Australian National Wildlife Collection, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems
    • U.S. Geological Survey Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, National Museum of Natural HistorySmithsonian Institution
  • R. A. Mulder
    • Department of ZoologyUniversity of Melbourne
  • A. D. Afton
    • U.S. Geological Survey, Louisiana Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research UnitLouisiana State University
  • D. C. Paton
    • School of Earth and Environmental ScienceUniversity of Adelaide
  • K. G. McCracken
    • Department of Biology and Wildlife, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska MuseumUniversity of Alaska Fairbanks
Research Article

DOI: 10.1007/s10592-010-0097-5

Cite this article as:
Guay, P., Chesser, R.T., Mulder, R.A. et al. Conserv Genet (2010) 11: 2105. doi:10.1007/s10592-010-0097-5


Musk Ducks (Biziura lobata) are endemic to Australia and occur as two geographically isolated populations separated by the Nullarbor Plain, a vast arid region in southern Australia. We studied genetic variation in Musk Duck populations at coarse (eastern versus western Australia) and fine scales (four sites within eastern Australia). We found significant genetic structure between eastern and western Australia in the mtDNA control region (ΦST = 0.747), one nuclear intron (ΦST = 0.193) and eight microsatellite loci (FST = 0.035). In contrast, there was little genetic structure between Kangaroo Island and adjacent mainland regions within eastern Australia. One small population of Musk Ducks in Victoria (Lake Wendouree) differed from both Kangaroo Island and the remainder of mainland eastern Australia, possibly due to genetic drift exacerbated by inbreeding and small population size. The observed low pairwise distance between the eastern and western mtDNA lineages (0.36%) suggests that they diverged near the end of the Pleistocene, a period characterised by frequent shifts between wet and arid conditions in central Australia. Our genetic results corroborate the display call divergence and Mathews’ (Austral Avian Record 2:83–107, 1914) subspecies classification, and confirm that eastern and western populations of Musk Duck are currently isolated from each other.


Arid zoneMicrosatelliteMitochondrial DNANuclear intronNullarbor PlainWaterfowl

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010