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A species in decline: genetic diversity and conservation of the Victorian eastern barred bandicoot, Perameles gunnii

Abstract

The eastern barred bandicoot, Perameles gunnii, has undergone a dramatic decline in distribution and abundance on the mainland of Australia during the twentieth century. In 1988 a captive breeding program was initiated to reduce the chance of extinction. With the extinction of the last wild mainland population in the early 1990s, reintroductions from captive-bred P. gunnii have met limited success, and currently only two extant populations persist in predator proof enclosures in the State of Victoria. With ~20 years of breeding, there are concerns that the genetic diversity within the breeding program has declined and may inhibit current and future success of the program. We have used ten nuclear microsatellite loci and sequencing of two partial mitochondrial genes (cytochrome oxidase I and ATPase 6) to determine genetic diversity within current Victorian P. gunnii. These diversity estimates are compared with historic samples from the captive breeding program dating back to 1995, historic samples from the last wild mainland population found at Hamilton in 1992 and contemporary Tasmanian wild populations. Results indicate that the captive P. gunnii population in the State of Victoria has lost significant genetic diversity through time. Genetic diversity is also reduced in populations at Hamilton Community Parklands and Mount Rothwell. Samples from the last wild population at Hamilton collected in 1992, along with samples from Tasmanian P. gunnii, had significantly greater genetic diversity than contemporary mainland populations. The results are discussed with reference to management options for maintaining genetic diversity within Victorian P. gunnii, including crossing Victorian and Tasmanian P. gunnii to increase genetic diversity, adaptability and evolutionary potential.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Megan Lutton and John Roberts for assistance with genotyping, Neil Murray and Peter Courtney for providing historic samples from the last wild population and the captive breeding program, and the eastern barred bandicoot recovery team for discussions. Funding was partially provided by the Department of Sustainability and Environment Victoria and Zoos Victoria for the development of the new microsatellite markers. ARW was funded by the Australian Research Council via their ARC Research Fellowship program. Approval for hair sampling and DNA analysis was given under project AEC 05186.

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Correspondence to Andrew R. Weeks.

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Weeks, A.R., van Rooyen, A., Mitrovski, P. et al. A species in decline: genetic diversity and conservation of the Victorian eastern barred bandicoot, Perameles gunnii . Conserv Genet 14, 1243–1254 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10592-013-0512-9

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Keywords

  • Conservation genetics
  • Microsatellite
  • Effective population size
  • Captive breeding program