Temporal variation in the genetic composition of an endangered marsupial reflects reintroduction history

Rujiporn Thavornkanlapachai, Harriet R. Mills, Kym Ottewell, J. Anthony Friend, W. Jason Kennington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The loss of genetic variation and genetic divergence from source populations are common problems for reintroductions that use captive animals or a small number of founders to establish a new population. This study evaluated the genetic changes occurring in a captive and a reintroduced population of the dibbler (Parantechinus apicalis) that were established from multiple source populations over a twelve-year period, using 21 microsatellite loci. While the levels of genetic variation within the captive and reintroduced populations were relatively stable, and did not differ significantly from the source populations, their effective population size reduced 10–16-fold over the duration of this study. Evidence of some loss of genetic variation in the reintroduced population coincided with genetic bottlenecks that occurred after the population had become established. Detectable changes in the genetic composition of both captive and reintroduced populations were associated with the origins of the individuals introduced to the population. We show that interbreeding between individuals from different source populations lowered the genetic relatedness among the offspring, but this was short-lived. Our study highlights the importance of sourcing founders from multiple locations in conservation breeding programs to avoid inbreeding and maximize allelic diversity. The manipulation of genetic composition in a captive or reintroduced population is possible with careful management of the origins and timings of founder releases.

Original languageEnglish
Article number257
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


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