Christmas Island flying-fox conservation genomics

Resolving the taxonomy of the Christmas Island Flying-fox using high-throughput genetic sequencing

The Christmas Island Flying-fox is an island population currently recognised as the subspecies Pteropus melanotus natalis, which is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN. Other subspecies of P. melanotus are found on several small islands to the west of Sumatra, ending at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and the population of P. m. modiglianii on Enggano Island has already become extinct.

If genetic studies conducted as part of the Oz Mammals Genomes project provide evidence for recognition of the Christmas Island Flying-fox at the species level, it would be regarded as Critically Endangered, given that its population has declined by 83% in 3 generations, and the causes of the decline are not known and may not have ceased.

We will use targeted bat exon capture to resolve the taxonomic status of the Christmas Island Flying-fox. This will involve examining the level of similarity and likelihood of genetic exchange between this population and other closely-related or ‘sister taxa’ on several of the chain of islands that extend from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India down along the western side of Sumatra.

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