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Relict or reintroduction? Genetic population assignment of three Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) recovered on mainland Australia

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White_Relict_RoyalSocOpenSci_2017.pdf
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Citation

White, L. C., & Austin, J. J. (2017). Relict or reintroduction? Genetic population assignment of three Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) recovered on mainland Australia. Royal Society Open Science, 4(4): 170053. doi:10.1098/rsos.170053.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0000-B011-5
Abstract
Today, the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) is found only on the island of Tasmania, despite once being widespread across mainland Australia. While the devil is thought to have become extinct on the mainland approximately 3000 years ago, three specimens were collected in Victoria (south-eastern Australia) between 1912 and 1991, raising the possibility that a relict mainland population survived in the area. Alternatively, these devils may have escaped captivity or were deliberately released after being transported from Tasmania, a practice that has been strictly controlled since the onset of devil facial tumour disease in the early 1990s. Such quarantine regimes are important to protect disease-free, ‘insurance populations’ in zoos on the mainland. To test whether the three Victorian devils were members of a relict mainland population or had been recently transported from Tasmania we identified seven single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the mitochondrial genome that can distinguish between Tasmanian and ancient mainland populations. The three Victorian devil specimens have the same seven SNPs diagnostic of modern Tasmanian devils, confirming that they were most likely transported from Tasmania and do not represent a remnant population of mainland devils.