Translocation is a strategy commonly used to maximize the persistence of threatened species, but it may sometimes lead to undesirable genetic consequences. The northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus) is a carnivorous marsupial that is critically endangered in Australia's Northern Territory due to rapid population declines in areas recently colonized by the exotic cane toad Chaunus [Bufo] marinus. In 2003, 64 quolls were translocated to two offshore islands to establish insurance populations and reduce the species' risk of extinction. In this study, we assessed genetic diversity at five microsatellite loci in the translocated populations, two endemic islands and three mainland populations. In the short-term (three generations), the translocated populations showed a slight but non-significant reduction in genetic diversity (A = 4.1-4.2; He = 0.56-0.59) compared to the mainland source populations (A = 5.0-8.4; He = 0.56-0.71). In comparison, high genetic erosion was observed in the endemic island populations (A = 1.5-2.9; He = 0.11-0.34). Genetic bottlenecks were detected on both endemic islands and in one mainland population, indicating recent reductions in population size. Our results are consistent with previous studies describing greater losses of genetic diversity on islands compared to mainland populations. Divergence from ancestral allele frequencies in the translocated populations also suggests effects due to founder events. This study, although short-term, highlights the importance of continued monitoring for detecting changes in genetic diversity over time and makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the effects of founder events on island populations.
- Genetic monitoring