, Volume 162, Issue 2, pp 359–370 | Cite as

Adult survival and microsatellite diversity in possums: effects of major histocompatibility complex-linked microsatellite diversity but not multilocus inbreeding estimators

  • Sam C. Banks
  • Jean Dubach
  • Karen L. Viggers
  • David B. Lindenmayer
Population Ecology - Original Paper


Adult survival is perhaps the fitness parameter most important to population growth in long-lived species. Intrinsic and extrinsic covariates of survival are therefore likely to be important drivers of population dynamics. We used long-term mark-recapture data to identify genetic, individual and environmental covariates of local survival in a natural population of mountain brushtail possums (Trichosurus cunninghami). Rainfall and intra-individual diversity at microsatellite DNA markers were associated with increased local survival of adults and juveniles. We contrasted the performance of several microsatellite heterozygosity measures, including internal relatedness (IR), homozygosity by loci (HL) and the mean multilocus estimate of the squared difference in microsatellite allele sizes within an individual (mean d 2). However, the strongest effect on survival was not associated with multilocus microsatellite diversity (which would indicate a genome-wide inbreeding effect), but a subset of two loci. This included a major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-linked marker and a putatively neutral microsatellite locus. For both loci, diversity measures incorporating allele size information had stronger associations with survival than measures based on heterozygosity, whether or not allele frequency information was included (such as IR). Increased survival was apparent among heterozygotes at the MHC-linked locus, but the benefits of heterozygosity to survival were reduced in heterozygotes with larger differences in allele size. The effect of heterozygosity on fitness-related traits was supported by data on endoparasites in a subset of the individuals studied in this population. There was no apparent density dependence in survival, nor an effect of sex, age or immigrant status. Our findings suggest that in the apparent absence of inbreeding, variation at specific loci can generate strong associations between fitness and diversity at linked markers.


Survival Mark-recapture Major histocompatibility complex Assignment test Parasite load 



This work was supported by the Hermon Slade Foundation (grant 08-4), the Australian Research Council (project DP0984876) and the Commonwealth Environment Research Facility Applied Environmental Decision Analysis research hub. Thanks to Lachlan McBurney, Damian Michael, Chris Macgregor and Mason Crane for assistance in the field. The manuscript editor, Jörg Ganzhorn, and two anonymous referees provided constructive criticism of an earlier version of the manuscript.

Supplementary material

442_2009_1464_MOESM1_ESM.doc (55 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 55 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sam C. Banks
    • 1
  • Jean Dubach
    • 2
  • Karen L. Viggers
    • 1
  • David B. Lindenmayer
    • 1
  1. 1.The Fenner School of Environment and SocietyThe Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Conservation BiologyDaniel F. and Ada L. Rice Conservation Biology and Research Center, Brookfield ZooBrookfieldUSA

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