Weak genetic structuring suggests historically high genetic connectivity among recently fragmented urban populations of the scincid lizard, Ctenotus fallens
Australian Journal of Zoology
School of Science / Centre for Ecosystem Management
Populations in fragmented urban remnants may be at risk of genetic erosion as a result of reduced gene flow and elevated levels of inbreeding. This may have serious genetic implications for the long-term viability of remnant populations, in addition to the more immediate pressures caused by urbanisation. The population genetic structure of the generalist skink Ctenotus fallens was examined using nine microsatellite markers within and among natural vegetation remnants within a highly fragmented urban matrix in the Perth metropolitan area in Western Australia. These data were compared with samples from a large unfragmented site on the edge of the urban area. Overall, estimates of genetic diversity and inbreeding within all populations were similar and low. Weak genetic differentiation, and a significant association between geographic and genetic distance, suggests historically strong genetic connectivity that decreases with geographic distance. Due to recent fragmentation, and genetic inertia associated with low genetic diversity and large population sizes, it is not possible from these data to infer current genetic connectivity levels. However, the historically high levels of gene flow that our data suggest indicate that a reduction in contemporary connectivity due to fragmentation in C. fallens is likely to result in negative genetic consequences in the longer term.