Cunningham's skinks show low genetic connectivity and signatures of divergent selection across its distribution

Benjamin Y. Ofori*, Linda J. Beaumont, Adam J. Stow

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    6 Citations (Scopus)
    23 Downloads (Pure)


    Establishing corridors of connecting habitat has become a mainstay conservation strategy to maintain gene flow and facilitate climate-driven range shifts. Yet, little attention has been given to ascertaining the extent to which corridors will benefit philopatric species, which might exhibit localized adaptation. Measures of genetic connectivity and adaptive genetic variation across species’ ranges can help fill this knowledge gap. Here, we characterized the spatial genetic structure of Cunningham's skink (Egernia cunninghami), a philopatric species distributed along Australia's Great Dividing Range, and assessed evidence of localized adaptation. Analysis of 4,274 SNPs from 94 individuals sampled at four localities spanning 500 km and 4° of latitude revealed strong genetic structuring at neutral loci (mean FST ± SD = 0.603 ± 0.237) among the localities. Putatively neutral SNPs and those under divergent selection yielded contrasting spatial patterns, with the latter identifying two genetically distinct clusters. Given low genetic connectivity of the four localities, we suggest that the natural movement rate of this species is insufficient to keep pace with spatial shifts to its climate envelope, irrespective of habitat availability. In addition, our finding of localized adaptation highlights the risk of outbreeding depression should the translocation of individuals be adopted as a conservation management strategy.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)48-57
    Number of pages10
    JournalEcology and Evolution
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright The Authors 2016. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


    • adaptive genetic variation
    • conservation genetics
    • Egernia cunninghami
    • local adaptation
    • next-generation sequencing
    • single nucleotide polymorphisms


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