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Molecular assessment of the genetic integrity, distinctiveness and phylogeographic context of the Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) on Palau

Russello, M. A., Brazaitis, P., Gratten, J., Watkins-Colwell, G. J., Caccone, A.
Conservation genetics 2007 v.8 no.4 pp. 777-787
Crocodylus porosus, alleles, commercial farms, crocodiles, gene pool, genetic variation, haplotypes, interspecific hybridization, loci, microsatellite repeats, mitochondrial DNA, phylogeography, population dynamics, saline water, Australia, Borneo, Indonesia, Palau
The saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) is the largest and most broadly distributed crocodilian species, and thus is of special conservation and economic interest. Similar to other parts of its range throughout the Indo-Pacific, C. porosus distributed in the Republic of Palau have experienced a severe population decline over the past century primarily due to commercial hunting and eradication campaigns. In addition, several thousand crocodiles of undocumented species and origin were imported into Palau during the 1930's for commercial farming purposes, potentially polluting the gene pool of the endemic saltwater crocodiles. Analysis of 39 individuals collected throughout the Republic of Palau revealed a single mitochondrial DNA control region haplotype shared by populations sampled in Sulawesi, Borneo and Australia. The mtDNA results, in combination with microsatellite genotypic data at six loci, detected no evidence for inter-specific hybridization between endemic Palauan C. porosus and potentially introduced Crocodylus species. There was no evidence for a genetic bottleneck in the Palauan population, however an excess of rare alleles was identified, indirectly suggesting a recent history of admixture potentially linked to introductions of non-native C. porosus. Following from these findings, Palauan C. porosus should be included in the single ESU previously established for all saltwater crocodiles given the recovery of a fixed, but geographically widespread haplotype. Although Palauan C. porosus exhibited significant genetic differentiation relative to all other sampled populations, it's delineation as a distinct management unit is precluded at the present time by evidence that the genetic integrity of the population may have been compromised by the introduction of non-native saltwater crocodiles.