Reduced genetic diversity and significant genetic differentiation after translocation:: Comparison of the remnant and translocated populations of bridled nailtail wallabies (Onychogalea fraenata)

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Loss of genetic diversity and increased population differentiation from source populations are common problems associated with translocation programmes established from captive-bred stock or a small number of founders. The bridled nailtail wallaby is one of the most endangered macropods in Australia, having been reduced to a single remnant population in the last 100 years. A translocated population of bridled nailtail wallabies was established using animals sourced directly from the remnant population (wild-released) as well as the progeny of animals collected for a captive breeding programme (captive-bred). The aims of this study were to compare genetic diversity among released animals and their wild-born progeny to genetic diversity observed in the remnant population, and to monitor changes in genetic diversity over time as more animals were released into the population. Heterozygosity did not differ between the translocated and remnant population; however, allelic diversity was significantly reduced across all released animals and their wild-born progeny. Animals bred in captivity and their wild-born progeny were also significantly differentiated from the source population after just four generations. Wild-released animals, however, were representative of the source population and several alleles were unique to this group. Both heterozygosity and allelic diversity among translocated animals decreased over time with the additional release of captive-bred animals, as no new genetic stock was added to the population. Captive breeding programmes can provide large numbers of animals for release, but this study highlights the importance of sourcing animals directly from remnant populations in order to maintain genetic diversity and minimise genetic drift.

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