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Conservation genetics and species status of an endangered Australian dragon, Tympanocryptis pinguicolla (Reptilia: Agamidae)

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank P. Couper, L. Leung and R. Sadlier for advice on T. pinguicolla, K. Bell for input into morphological analyses and R. Rose, V. White & B. Ong for assistance in the molecular laboratory. Funding was provided by Australian Academy of Sciences to JM and the Australian Research Council to JM.

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Correspondence to Jane Melville.

Appendix 1

Appendix 1

Samples for DNA sequencing

Museum or field collection numbers and localities of specimens from which DNA was extracted are provided below (NOTE: GenBank accession numbers will be provided after paper is accepted for publication). All listed specimens designated by a field collection number where tail tips or toes clips collected during field surveys by Environment Australia (designated by “C”, “W”, or “M”) or C. Starr (designated by “CS”). Museum acronyms are AM for the Australian Museum, Sydney, and NMV for Museum Victoria, Melbourne. Tympanocryptis tetraporaphora: GenBank#DQ529271, AMR163347, northern NSW; T. pinguicolla: GenBank#DQ529254, C1, Kuma Nature Reserve, Cooma, NSW; T. pinguicolla: GenBank#DQ529255, C11, Devereanux, Cooma, NSW; T. pinguicolla: GenBank#DQ529256, C12, Devereanux, Cooma, NSW; T. pinguicolla: GenBank#DQ529257, C2,␣Devereanux, Cooma, NSW; T. pinguicolla: GenBank#DQ529258, C3, Quartz Hill, Cooma, NSW; T.␣pinguicolla: GenBank#DQ529259, C6, Kuma, Cooma, NSW; T. pinguicolla: GenBank#DQ529260, C8, Kuma, Cooma, NSW; T. pinguicolla: GenBank#DQ529261, C9,␣Quartz Hill, Cooma, NSW; T. pinguicolla: GenBank#DQ529262, W3, Woden, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory; T. pinguicolla: GenBank#DQ529263, M2, Majura Firing Range, N Canberra Airport, Australian Capital Territory; T. pinguicolla: GenBank#DQ529265, CS1, Mount Tyson, Halford, Queensland; T. pinguicolla: GenBank#DQ529266, CS14, Mount Tyson, Halford, Queensland; T.␣pinguicolla: GenBank#DQ529268, CS10, Mount Tyson, Halford, Queensland; T. pinguicolla: GenBank#DQ529267, CS33, Bongeen, Woodridge, Queensland; T. pinguicolla: GenBank#DQ529269, CS41, Bongeen, Woodridge, Queensland; T.␣pinguicolla: GenBank#DQ529270, CS46, Bongeen, Woodridge, Queensland; T. pinguicolla: GenBank#DQ529264, NMVD3483, mouth of the Yarra River, Melbourne, Victoria (specimen dates from 1906).

Our analyses also included the following previously published sequences (Melville et al. 2001; Schulte et al. 2003): Rankinia diemensis, AF375619; Pogona vitticeps, SAMA R42415, AY133026, Mabel Creek Station, South Australia; Tympanocryptis centralis, SAMA R31761, AY133030 208 km E Pipilyatjarra, South Australia; Tympanocryptis cephalus, SAMA R22854, AY133027, 21 km N Roebourne, Western Australia; Tympanocryptis houstoni, WAM R119738, AY133028, 40 km W Mundrabilla Roadhouse, Western Australia; Tympanocryptis intima, SAMA R40665, AY133029, Moolawatana Homestead, South Australia; Tympanocryptis lineata, AF128475; Tympanocryptis pinguicolla, ANWC R5786, AY133031, Majura Firing Range, N Canberra Airport, Australian Capital Territory; Tympanocryptis tetraporophora, ANWC R5612, AY133032, Morella Station, 65 km NNW of Walgett, New South Wales.

Samples for morphological analysis

Museum acronyms are AM for the Australian Museum, Sydney, ANWC for the Australian Wildlife Collection CSIRO, Canberra, and QM for the Queensland Museum, Brisbane. Seven specimens were from the Darling Downs, QLD (Bongeen: QMJ81871, QMJ81870, QMJ81784, QMJ34744; Brookstead: QMJ82087, QMJ82088; Dalby: AMR16957) and eleven from Canberra/NSW (Bathurst NSW: AMR26077, AMR25980; Woden station, Canberra: ANWCR05656, ANWCR05657, ANWCR05658, ANWCR05789; and␣Canberra Airport ACT: ANWCR05659, ANWCR05785, ANWCR05786, ANWCR05787, ANWCR05788).

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Melville, J., Goebel, S., Starr, C. et al. Conservation genetics and species status of an endangered Australian dragon, Tympanocryptis pinguicolla (Reptilia: Agamidae). Conserv Genet 8, 185–195 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10592-006-9161-6

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Keywords

  • Agamidae
  • Genetic diversity
  • Haplotype divergence
  • Historical biogeography
  • Reptiles