Genome-wide SNPs detect fine-scale genetic structure in threatened populations of squirrel glider Petaurus norfolcensis
Australian arboreal mammals are experiencing significant population declines, particularly due to land clearing and resulting habitat fragmentation. The squirrel glider, Petaurus norfolcensis, is a threatened species in New South Wales, with a stronghold population in the Lake Macquarie Local Government Area (LGA) where fragmentation due to urbanization is an ongoing problem for the species conservation. Here we report on the use of squirrel glider mitochondrial (385 bp cytochrome b gene, 70 individuals) and nuclear DNA (6,834 SNPs, 87 individuals) markers to assess their population genetic structure and connectivity across 14 locations sampled in the Lake Macquarie LGA. The mitochondrial DNA sequences detected evidence of a historical genetic bottleneck, while the genome-wide SNPs detected significant population structure in the Lake Macquarie squirrel glider populations at scales as fine as one kilometer. There was no evidence of inbreeding within patches, however there were clear effects of habitat fragmentation and biogeographical barriers on gene flow. A least cost path analysis identified thin linear corridors that have high priority for conservation. These areas should be protected to avoid further isolation of squirrel glider populations and the loss of genetic diversity through genetic drift.
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Lake Macquarie City Council