Genetic Consequences of Multiple Translocations of the Banded Hare-Wallaby in Western Australia

Date: 27, Nov, 2020
Author(s):   White, D.J., Ottewell, K., Spencer, P.B.S., Smith, M., Short, J., Sims, C., Mitchell, N.J.
Publisher: Diversity

Many Australian mammal species now only occur on islands and fenced mainland havens free from invasive predators. The range of one species, the banded hare-wallaby (Lagostrophus fasciatus), had contracted to two offshore islands in Western Australia. To improve survival, four conservation translocations have been attempted with mixed success, and all occurred in the absence of genetic information. Here, we genotyped seven polymorphic microsatellite markers in two source (Bernier Island and Dorre Island), two historic captive, and two translocated L. fasciatus populations to determine the impact of multiple translocations on genetic diversity. Subsequently, we used population viability analysis (PVA) and gene retention modelling to determine scenarios that will maximise demographic resilience and genetic richness of two new populations that are currently being established. One translocated population (Wadderin) has undergone a genetic bottleneck and lost 8.1% of its source population’s allelic diversity, while the other (Faure Island) may be inbred. We show that founder number is a key parameter when establishing new L. fasciatus populations and 100 founders should lead to high survival probabilities. Our modelling predicts that during periodic droughts, the recovery of source populations will be slower post-harvest, while 75% more animals—about 60 individuals—are required to retain adequate allelic diversity in the translocated population. Our approach demonstrates how genetic data coupled with simulations of stochastic environmental events can address central questions in translocation programmes.