The molecular ecology of Australian wild dogs: hybridisation, gene flow and genetic structure at multiple geographic scales

Danielle Stephens

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

    1154 Downloads (Pure)

    Abstract

    [Truncated abstract] Advances in molecular ecology, particularly over the past two decades, have allowed studies of populations to extend to increasingly broad geographic and temporal scales without sacrificing detail. Limitations on sample numbers and types are decreasing, as efficiency and techniques for extracting DNA from sub-optimal sources (such as hair or scats) improve. In this thesis I use microsatellite DNA markers to produce the first study of population genetics in Australian wild dogs, including dingoes (Canis lupus dingo), feral domestic dogs (C. l. familiaris) and their hybrids. Dingoes are unique among the Australian vertebrate fauna because they were transported to the continent approximately 5,000 years ago. They have therefore not been in the ecosystem on evolutionary timescales, but have been present much longer than other introduced species. Dingoes are Australia’s apex predator, and have spread across habitats from deserts to tropical forests, but are currently under threat of extinction due to widespread hybridisation with domestic dogs. The conservation of dingoes is a management priority in some areas, but in others they are actively persecuted to protect livestock from predation. The research areas addressed in this thesis are: the type of genetic samples best suited to different questions in research on wild dogs; the locations of pure dingoes; the patterns of gene flow among individuals and groups; and the degree of variability in spatial ecology across their range. Research outcomes are also placed into the context of how they can inform the management of wild dogs. Comparison of three non-invasively collected DNA sources with each other and with an invasively collected source (DNA swabs) showed that non-invasive samples, particularly scats, can be an appropriate source of DNA for monitoring based on identification of individual.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2011

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