Testing the regional genetic representativeness of captive koala populations in South-East Queensland

Seddon, Jennifer M., Lee, Kristen E., Johnston, Stephen D., Nicolson, Vere N., Pyne, Michael, Carrick, Frank N. and Ellis, William A. H. (2014) Testing the regional genetic representativeness of captive koala populations in South-East Queensland. Wildlife Research, 41 4: 277-286. doi:10.1071/WR13103

Author Seddon, Jennifer M.
Lee, Kristen E.
Johnston, Stephen D.
Nicolson, Vere N.
Pyne, Michael
Carrick, Frank N.
Ellis, William A. H.
Title Testing the regional genetic representativeness of captive koala populations in South-East Queensland
Journal name Wildlife Research   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1035-3712
Publication date 2014-01-01
Year available 2014
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1071/WR13103
Open Access Status
Volume 41
Issue 4
Start page 277
End page 286
Total pages 10
Place of publication Clayton, VIC, Australia
Publisher CSIRO Publishing
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Context: Captive breeding for release back to the wild is an important component of ex situ conservation but requires genetic diversity that is representative of the wild population and has the ultimate goal of producing ecologically sustainable and resilient populations. However, defining and testing for representativeness of captive populations is difficult. Koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) are bred for educational and tourism purposes in zoos and wildlife parks in South-East Queensland, but there are drastic declines evident in some wild koala populations in this region.

Aim: We compared genetic diversity at microsatellite loci and mitochondrial DNA in two captive koala populations with that of the local, wild koalas of South-East Queensland, determining the degree to which genetic diversity of neutral loci had been preserved and was represented in the captive populations.

Key results: The expected heterozygosity and the allelic richness was significantly greater in one captive colony than one wild South-East Queensland population. There was low but significant differentiation of the captive from wild populations using FST, with greater differentiation described by Jost’s Dest. In contrast, a newly introduced Kullback–Leibler divergence measure, which assesses similarity of allele frequencies, showed no significant divergence of colony and wild populations. The captive koalas lacked many of the mitochondrial haplotypes identified from South-East Queensland koalas and possessed seven other haplotypes.

Conclusions: Captive colonies of koalas have maintained levels of overall neutral genetic diversity similar to wild populations at microsatellite loci and low but significant differentiation likely resulted from drift and founder effects in small captive colonies or declining wild populations. Mitochondrial DNA suggests that captive founders were from a wider geographic source or that haplotypes have been lost locally.

Implications: Overall, tested captive koalas maintain sufficient microsatellite diversity to act as an in situ reservoir for neutral genetic diversity of regional populations.
Keyword Ex situ conservation
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Grant ID LP0455785
Institutional Status UQ

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