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Evidence that disease-induced population decline changes genetic structure and alters dispersal patterns in the Tasmanian devil


Lachish, S and Miller, KJ and Storfer, A and Goldizen, AW and Jones, ME, Evidence that disease-induced population decline changes genetic structure and alters dispersal patterns in the Tasmanian devil , Heredity, 106, (1) pp. 172-182. ISSN 0018-067X (2011) [Refereed Article]

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DOI: doi:10.1038/hdy.2010.17


Infectious disease has been shown to be a major cause of population declines in wild animals. However, there remains little empirical evidence on the genetic consequences of disease-mediated population declines, or how such pertur- bations might affect demographic processes such as dispersal. Devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) has resulted in the rapid decline of the Tasmanian devil, Sarcophilus harrisii, and threatens to cause extinction. Using 10 micro- satellite DNA markers, we compared genetic diversity and structure before and after DFTD outbreaks in three Tasmanian devil populations to assess the genetic con- sequences of disease-induced population decline. We also used both genetic and demographic data to investigate dispersal patterns in Tasmanian devils along the east coast of Tasmania. We observed a significant increase in inbreed- ing in devil populations after just 2�3 generations of disease arrival, but no detectable change in genetic diversity. Furthermore, although there was no subdivision apparent among pre-disease populations (y � 0.005, 95% confidence interval (CI) 􏰁0.003 to 0.017), we found significant genetic differ- entiation among populations post-disease (y � 0.020, 0.010� 0.027), apparently driven by a combination of selection and altered dispersal patterns of females in disease-affected populations. We also show that dispersal is male-biased in devils and that dispersal distances follow a typical leptokurtic distribution. Our results show that disease can result in genetic and demographic changes in host populations over few generations and short time scales. Ongoing manage- ment of Tasmanian devils must now attempt to maintain genetic variability in this species through actions designed to reverse the detrimental effects of inbreeding and subdivision in disease-affected populations.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:disease; population decline; genetic diversity; genetic structure; dispersal; Tasmanian devil
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Genetics
Research Field:Gene mapping
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Control of pests, diseases and exotic species in terrestrial environments
UTAS Author:Miller, KJ (Dr Karen Miller)
UTAS Author:Jones, ME (Professor Menna Jones)
ID Code:63291
Year Published:2011
Web of Science® Times Cited:58
Deposited By:Zoology
Deposited On:2010-04-27
Last Modified:2017-10-31
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