Phylogeographical population structure of tiger quolls Dasyurus maculatus (Dasyuridae: Marsupialia), an endangered carnivorous marsupial


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Tiger quolls, Dasyurus maculatus, are the largest carnivorous marsupials still extant on the mainland of Australia, and occupy an important ecological niche as top predators and scavengers. Two allopatric subspecies are recognized, D.m. gracilis in north Queensland, and D.m. maculatus in the southeast of the mainland and Tasmania. D.m. gracilis is considered endangered while D.m. maculatus is listed as vulnerable to extinction; both subspecies are still in decline. Phylogeographical subdivision was examined to determine evolutionarily significant units (ESUs) and management units (MUs) among populations of tiger quolls to assist in the conservation of these taxa. Ninety-three tiger quolls from nine representative populations were sampled from throughout the species range. Six nuclear microsatellite loci and the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region (471 bp) were used to examine ESUs and MUs in this species. We demonstrated that Tasmanian tiger quolls are reciprocally monophyletic to those from the mainland using mtDNA analysis, but D.m. gracilis was not monophyletic with respect to mainland D.m. maculatus. Analysis of microsatellite loci also revealed significant differences between the Tasmanian and mainland tiger quolls, and between D.m. gracilis and mainland D.m. maculatus. These results indicate that Tasmanian and mainland tiger quolls form two distinct evolutionary units but that D.m. gracilis and mainland D.m. maculatus are different MUs within the same ESU. The two marker types used in this study revealed different male and female dispersal patterns and indicate that the most appropriate units for short-term management are local populations. A revised classification and management plan are needed for tiger quolls, particularly in relation to conservation of the Tasmanian and Queensland populations.