Eastern pygmy possum conservation genomics

Taxonomic clarification of the Eastern Pygmy Possum

The Eastern Pygmy Possum (Cercartetus nanus) is listed as a threatened species (Vulnerable) in New South Wales and South Australia. It has a patchy and largely coastal distribution from southeast Queensland to southeast South Australia and Tasmania. Currently two sub-species are recognised; Cercartetus nanus nanus in Tasmania and Cercartetus nanus unicolor on mainland Australia. These sub-species descriptions are described as “dubious” by Ward and Turner, 2008 (Mammals of Australia) and seem to only be based on perceived geographic isolation. To date there has been no comprehensive genetic analyses of the species to lend credence to its current taxonomy or provide genetic information to inform management of the species.

This project seeks to clarify the taxonomy of ‘C. nanus’ by generating DNA sequencing data from multiple nuclear loci from individuals sampled throughout the species range on the mainland and in Tasmania. This will enable us to clarify how many species are present within ‘C. nanus’ and determine more accurately their distributions. With this information the conservation status of these currently unrecognised cryptic species can be reassessed accurately, and future conservation efforts can be carried out using robust taxonomic and distributional information to ensure survival of these species.

Project coordinators:

Project collaborators:

  • Jennifer Anson (Australian Wildlife Conservancy)
  • Viyanna Leo (Australian Wildlife Conservancy)
  • Cassandra Thompson (Roads and Maritime Services NSW)
  • Andrew Lothian (Biodiversity Monitoring Services)
  • Ross Goldingay (Southern Cross University)
  • Mark Eldridge (Australian Museum)