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Allopatric divergence drives the genetic structuring of an endangered alpine endemic lizard with a sky-island distribution


Atkins, ZS and Amor, MD and Clemann, N and Chapple, DG and While, GM and Gardner, MG and Haines, ML and Harrisson, KA and Schroder, M and Robert, KA, Allopatric divergence drives the genetic structuring of an endangered alpine endemic lizard with a sky-island distribution, Animal Conservation, 23, (1) pp. 104-118. ISSN 1367-9430 (2019) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2019 The Zoological Society of London

DOI: doi:10.1111/acv.12519


Anthropogenic climate change is causing a world‐wide reduction of alpine habitat, leaving many high‐elevation species restricted to sky‐islands and vulnerable to extinction. Understanding the genetic parameters of these populations provides key insight into species diversity, dispersal capacity and vulnerability to disturbance. We examined the impact of past climatic variation on a threatened alpine endemic lizard, the Guthega skink, Liopholis guthega. We analysed SNP and mtDNA data to determine the population structure and phylogeny within this species, providing an understanding of the speciesí relatedness, dispersal and viability. We identified significant genetic structure, with the split between populations in Koscuiszko National Park, New South Wales (NSW) and the Bogong High Plains, Victoria (VIC) consistent with Plio‐Pleistocene divergence. However, we also detected evidence of possible historical introgressive hybridization between some NSW populations and the VIC populations. Marked within‐site population structure and significant population differentiation among sites within each state were found, indicating a limited dispersal capacity. Higher levels of genetic diversity within NSW support the correlation between elevation and diversity and implicate Kosciuszko National Park as a historic refugia. Low contemporary habitat availability, little to no capacity for elevational progression and low genetic diversity, particularly in VIC, leaves L. guthega highly vulnerable to threatening processes associated with climate change. Conservation management should consider genetic rescue as a potential method to enhance genetic diversity across this speciesí range.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:alpine ecology, Australia, endangered species, Guthega skink, mitochondrial DNA, population structure, single nucleotide polymorphisms, population genetics
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Evolutionary biology
Research Field:Biogeography and phylogeography
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences
UTAS Author:While, GM (Associate Professor Geoff While)
ID Code:133804
Year Published:2019
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (DP150102900)
Web of Science® Times Cited:9
Deposited By:Zoology
Deposited On:2019-07-10
Last Modified:2020-06-22

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