Translocation retains genetic diversity of a threatened endemic reptile in Mauritius

Michaelides, Sozos - Cole, Nik - Funk, Stephan M.
Datos de publicación:
Translocations - Conservation genetics - Microsatellites - Reptiles - Skinks - Mauritius
The island of Mauritius has experienced five reptile extinctions since the 1600s. Approximately half of the remaining herpetofauna has been restricted to offshore islets, resulting in small populations at high risk of extinction. Under the combined pressures of invasive species, habitat loss and fragmentation and climate change, translocations are considered a powerful tool in conservation of threatened and endangered species. The Bojer's skink, Gongylomorphus bojerii, on the offshore island on Ilot Vacoas represents the remnant population of the species in the southeast of Mauritius. Given the geographic isolation and its genetic distinctiveness, individuals were translocated to the neighbouring island of Ile aux Fouquets in order to re-establish historical range, minimize extinction risk and maintain genetic variation within the species. Using fifteen microsatellite loci, we assessed the genetic structure of the population on Ilot Vacoas in relation to a northern offshore population (on Round Island) and evaluated the genetic consequences of the translocation. Results revealed that the population on Ilot Vacoas exhibits significantly lower levels of genetic variation and strong differentiation (F (ST) = 0.16) compared to the northern population. The inbreeding coefficient was low and no recent bottleneck event was detected from its genetic signature. The translocation on Ile aux Fouquets did not provide evidence of negative genetic effects. The newly established population retained much of the source's genetic material, though the effective population size was found to be relatively small. These findings confirmed the importance of incorporating genetic management and continuous monitoring to detect changes in the long-term survival of translocated populations.

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