Genetic analysis of a documented population bottleneck: introduced Bennett’s wallabies (Macropus rufogriseus rufogriseus) in New Zealand


D. W. Cooper. Fax: (612) 9850 9686; E-mail:


Few bottlenecks of wild populations are sufficiently well-documented to constitute models for testing theories about the impact of bottlenecks on genetic variation, and subsequent population persistence. Relevant details of the Bennett’s wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus rufogriseus) introduction into New Zealand were recorded (founder number, source and approximate bottleneck duration) and suggest this may provide a rare opportunity to examine the efficacy of tests designed to detect recent bottlenecks in wild populations. We first assessed the accuracy of historic accounts of the introduction using genetic diversity detected in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and at five microsatellite loci. Phylogenetic analyses of mtDNA D-loop sequence haplotypes were consistent with the reported origin of the founders as Tasmania, rather than one of the Bass Strait islands in which Bennett’s wallabies are also found. Microsatellite allele frequencies from the Tasmanian source population were then used to seed bottleneck simulations encompassing varying sizes and numbers of generations, in order to assess the severity of bottleneck consistent with diversity observed in the New Zealand population. The results suggested that the founder number was unlikely to have been as small as the three animals suggested by the account of the introduction. Nonetheless, the bottleneck was probably severe; in the range of three to five pairs of wallabies for one to three generations. It resulted in significantly reduced levels of allelic diversity and heterozygosity relative to the source population. This bottleneck is only detectable under the infinite allele model (IAM) and not under the stepwise mutation model (SMM) or the two-phase model (TPM), and possible explanations for this are discussed.