Conservation Genetics

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 297–309 | Cite as

Population genetic structure of island and mainland populations of the quokka, Setonix brachyurus (Macropodidae): a comparison of AFLP and microsatellite markers

  • Erika A. Alacs
  • Peter B. S. Spencer
  • Paul J. de Tores
  • Siegfried L. Krauss
Research Article


Translocation and reintroduction are important tools for the conservation or recovery of species threatened with extinction in the wild. However, an understanding of the potential genetic consequences of mixing populations requires an understanding of the genetic variation within, and similarities among, donor and recipient populations. Genetic diversity was measured using two independent marker systems (microsatellites and AFLPs) for one island and four small remnant mainland populations of Setonix brachyurus, a threatened medium sized macropod restricted to fragmented habitat remnants and two off-shore islands in southwest Australia. Microsatellite diversity in the island population (R s = 3.2, H e = 71%) was similar to, or greater than, all mainland populations (R s = 2.1–3.9, H e = 34-71%). In contrast, AFLP diversity was significantly lower in the island population (PPL = 20.5; H j = 0.118) compared to all mainland populations (mean PPL = 79.5–89.7; mean H j = 0.23–0.29). Microsatellites differentiated all (mainland and island) populations from each other. However, AFLP only differentiated the island population from the mainland populations—all mainland populations were not significantly differentiated from each other for this marker. Given a known time since isolation of the island population from the mainland (6,000 years ago), and an overall more conservative rate of evolution of AFLP markers, our results are consistent with mainland populations fragmenting thousands of years ago (but <6,000 years), probably as a consequence of reduced rainfall and the constriction of the preferred mesic habitat of quokkas. Our results also support a recent history of severe population bottlenecks in mainland populations, and a long history of bottlenecks of the island population, but reflect a recent explosion in numbers since European occupation of the island. Our results indicate that translocation of island populations to supplement mainland populations would introduce genetically markedly differentiated, and possibly maladapted, individuals.


Marsupial Genetic variation Historical fragmentation Conservation Management 



This project was funded by the Pest Animal Control Co-operative Research Centre. We thank Mike Calver, Liz Sinclair and the reviewers for suggestions that improved the manuscript and also gratefully acknowledge support from Matt Hayward, the Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC), and the Marsupial CRC.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erika A. Alacs
    • 1
    • 2
  • Peter B. S. Spencer
    • 1
  • Paul J. de Tores
    • 3
  • Siegfried L. Krauss
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.School of Biological Sciences & BiotechnologyMurdoch UniversityMurdoch, Western AustraliaAustralia
  2. 2.Institute for Applied EcologyUniversity of Canberra, BruceAustralian Capital TerritoryAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Environment and ConservationWildlife Research CentreWanneroo, Western AustraliaAustralia
  4. 4.Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority, Kings Park and Botanic GardensWestern AustraliaAustralia
  5. 5.School of Plant Biology, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, The University of Western AustraliaCrawley, Western AustraliaAustralia

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