Hybridization and genetic introgression following the introduction of exotic species can pose a significant threat to the survival of geographically restricted species. A remnant population of the critically endangered freshwater crayfish Cherax tenuimanus in the upper reaches of the Margaret River in southwestern Australia is under threat following the introduction and spread of its congener Cherax cainii. Here, we examine the extent of hybridization and introgression between the two species using twelve polymorphic microsatellite loci. Our study reveals there are three times more C. cainii than C. tenuimanus at our study site in the upper reaches of the Margaret River. There is also evidence of hybridization and introgression between C. tenuimanus and C. cainii at this site, with F1, F2 and backcrossed individuals identified. While interbreeding was confirmed in this study, our simulations suggest that the levels of introgression are much lower than would be expected under random mating, indicating partial reproductive barriers exist. Nevertheless, it is apparent that hybridization and introgression with C. cainii pose a serious threat to C. tenuimanus and their survival in the wild will require active adaptive management and continued genetic monitoring to evaluate management effectiveness.
|Date made available||4 Mar 2016|