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Genetic analysis of three remnant populations of the rufous hare-wallaby (Lagorchestes hirsutus) in arid Australia

Eldridge, Mark D. B., Neaves, Linda E., Spencer, Peter B. S.
Australian mammalogy 2019 v.41 no.1 pp. 123-131
Lagorchestes hirsutus, captive animals, cytochrome b, genetic analysis, genetic variation, islands, microsatellite repeats, mitochondrial DNA, Western Australia
The rufous hare-wallaby (Lagorchestes hirsutus) is now extinct in the wild on mainland Australia, but survives in captivity. However, endemic populations persist on Bernier and Dorre Islands, Western Australia. This study aimed to compare the genetic diversity and differentiation amongst three remaining rufous hare-wallaby populations using mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) (cytochrome b, control region) sequence data and nuclear (microsatellite) markers. Levels of microsatellite diversity were low in both island populations but high in the captive mainland population. Levels of mtDNA diversity were low in all three populations. The mainland and island populations of L. hirsutus were found to be significantly differentiated for both microsatellite and mtDNA data, but the two island populations were significantly differentiated only for the microsatellite data. This pattern of differentiation is not consistent with the recognition of two separate island subspecies, but we recommend that the mainland and island populations be regarded as separate subspecies. The low diversity of the island populations and differentiation between island and mainland populations presents both challenges and opportunities for future management.