Western barred bandicoot conservation genomics

Conservation assessment of the western barred bandicoot: species delimitation and assessment of genetic diversity of contemporary and extinct populations to inform species management

The Western Barred Bandicoot (Perameles bougainville) is an endangered species, confined to two islands (Bernier and Dorre Islands) in the Shark Bay World Heritage Area, Western Australia. It used to be more widespread, occurring on mainland Australia. Its taxonomy is quite complex. Five taxa were originally described (P. bougainville, P. myosuros, P. arenaria, P. myosuros notina and P. fasciata) but now only two subspecies are recognised (P. b. bougainville, including P. myosuros, P. arenaria as synonyms, and P. b. fasciata including P. myosuros notina as a synonym).

Recent morphological and some genetic work suggests that there are actually five species within this complex. If these taxa are indeed distinct, this will have a significant impact on decision making for the conservation of the western barred bandicoot. Reconstructing the distribution of each species will have an impact on the location of any future translocation.

We are using marsupial targeted exon capture to conduct a phylogenomic analysis of contemporary and historical specimens, to assess current taxonomy of P. bouganville and allied Perameles. We will assess the historical genetic structure and diversity of the genus relative to contemporary samples by including exemplars from extant wild populations of P. bougainville and museum skins.

We are also using ddRAD sequencing to conduct a conservation genetic assessment of all contemporary natural and managed populations of P. bougainville. Results of this work will be used to better inform population viability analysis (PVA) models for the reintroduction sites. Using PVA models based on both ecological and genetic data, a series of scenarios will be assessed to determine the best genetic outcomes for reintroduction events. Comparisons between different populations may give greater insight into changes in diversity and immunogenetic diversity of western barred bandicoots.

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