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