Centre for Ecosystem Management / School of Science
Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions
University of Western Australia
The use of multiple source populations provides a way to maximise genetic variation and reduce the impacts of inbreeding depression in newly established translocated populations. However, there is a risk that individuals from different source populations will not interbreed, leading to population structure and smaller effective population sizes than expected. Here, we investigate the genetic consequences of mixing two isolated, morphologically distinct island populations of boodies (Bettongia lesueur) in a translocation to mainland Australia over three generations. Using 18 microsatellite loci and the mitochondrial D-loop region, we monitored the released animals and their offspring between 2010 and 2013. Despite high levels of divergence between the two source populations (FST = 0.42 and ϕST = 0.72), there was clear evidence of interbreeding between animals from different populations. However, interbreeding was non-random, with a significant bias towards crosses between the genetically smaller-sized Barrow Island males and the larger-sized Dorre Island females. This pattern of introgression was opposite to the expectation that male–male competition or female mate choice would favour larger males. This study shows how mixing diverged populations can bolster genetic variation in newly established mammal populations, but the ultimate outcome can be difficult to predict, highlighting the need for continued genetic monitoring to assess the long-term impacts of admixture.
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