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Heredity (Edinb). 2014 Mar;112(3):333-42. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2013.109. Epub 2013 Oct 30.

Sex-linked and autosomal microsatellites provide new insights into island populations of the tammar wallaby.

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Institute for Applied Ecology, University of Canberra, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia.
School of Animal Biology, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, Western Australia, Australia.
Department of Zoology, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia.


The emerging availability of microsatellite markers from mammalian sex chromosomes provides opportunities to investigate both male- and female-mediated gene flow in wild populations, identifying patterns not apparent from the analysis of autosomal markers alone. Tammar wallabies (Macropus eugenii), once spread over the southern mainland, have been isolated on several islands off the Western Australian and South Australian coastlines for between 10,000 and 13,000 years. Here, we combine analyses of autosomal, Y-linked and X-linked microsatellite loci to investigate genetic variation in populations of this species on two islands (Kangaroo Island, South Australia and Garden Island, Western Australia). All measures of diversity were higher for the larger Kangaroo Island population, in which genetic variation was lowest at Y-linked markers and highest at autosomal markers (θ=3.291, 1.208 and 0.627 for autosomal, X-linked and Y-linked data, respectively). Greater relatedness among females than males provides evidence for male-biased dispersal in this population, while sex-linked markers identified genetic lineages not apparent from autosomal data alone. Overall genetic diversity in the Garden Island population was low, especially on the Y chromosome where most males shared a common haplotype, and we observed high levels of inbreeding and relatedness among individuals. Our findings highlight the utility of this approach for management actions, such as the selection of animals for translocation or captive breeding, and the ecological insights that may be gained by combining analyses of microsatellite markers on sex chromosomes with those derived from autosomes.

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