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Microsatellite variation and population structure in a declining Australian Hylid Litoria aurea

Authors

  • Emma L. Burns,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, NSW, 2052, Australia,
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  • Mark D. B. Eldridge,

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, NSW, 2109, Australia,
    2. Evolutionary Biology Unit, Australian Museum, 6 College St, Sydney, NSW, 2010 Australia,
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  • Bronwyn A. Houlden

    1. School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, NSW, 2052, Australia,
    2. Zoological Parts Board of NSW, PO Box 20, Mosman 2088
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E. L. Burns. Fax: 61 29385 1558; E-mail: e.burns@student.unsw.edu.au

Abstract

The green and golden bell frog (Litoria aurea) was once a common Australian Hylid. Today, many populations are small and fragmented as a result of dramatic declines in distribution and abundance. We undertook a large-scale assessment of genetic structure and diversity in L. aurea using four species-specific microsatellite markers. Twenty-one locations were sampled from throughout the species range covering 1000 km of the east coast of Australia. Levels of allelic diversity and heterozygosity were high (uncorrected mean alleles/locus and HE were 4.8–8.8 and 0.43–0.8, respectively) compared to other amphibian species and significant differences among sampled sites were recorded. Despite recent population declines, no sites displayed a genetic signature indicative of a population bottleneck. Significant genetic structuring (overall FST 0.172) was detected throughout the species range, but was relatively low compared to previous amphibian studies employing microsatellites. In addition we found that some areas sampled within continuous habitat showed evidence of weak genetic structuring (data subset FST 0.034). We conclude that maintaining areas of continuous habitat is critical to the conservation of the species and argue that population recovery and/or persistence in all areas sampled is possible if appropriate protection and management are afforded.

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