An endangered arboreal specialist, the western ringtail possum (Pseudocheirus occidentalis), shows a greater genetic divergence across a narrow artificial waterway than a major road

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    Abstract

    © 2016 Yokochi et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. The fragmentation of habitats by roads and other artificial linear structures can have a profound effect on the movement of arboreal species due to their strong fidelity to canopies. Here, we used 12microsatellite DNA loci to investigate the fine-scale spatial genetic structure and the effects of a major road and a narrow artificial waterway on a population of the endangered western ringtail possum (Pseudocheirus occidentalis) in Busselton,Western Australia. Using spatial autocorrelation analysis, we found positive genetic structure in continuous habitat over distances up to 600 m. These patterns are consistent with the sedentary nature of P. occidentalis and highlight their vulnerability to the effects of habitat fragmentation. Pairwise relatedness values and Bayesian cluster analysis also revealed significant genetic divergences across an artificial waterway, suggesting that it was a barrier to gene flow. By contrast, no genetic divergences were detected across the major road.While studies often focus on roads when assessing the effects of artificial linear structures on wildlife, this study provides an example of an often overlooked artificial linear structure other than a road that has a significant impact on wildlife dispersal leading to genetic subdivision.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere0146167
    JournalPLoS One
    Volume11
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2016

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