Fine-scale spatial genetic correlation analyses reveal strong female philopatry within a brush-tailed rock-wallaby colony in southeast Queensland

Authors

  • S. L. HAZLITT,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Life Sciences, University of Queensland, St Lucia QLD 4072 Australia,
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  • M. D. B. ELDRIDGE,

    1. School of Life Sciences, University of Queensland, St Lucia QLD 4072 Australia,
    2. Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109 Australia, Evolutionary Biology Unit, Australian Museum, 6 College St, Sydney 2010 Australia
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  • A. W. GOLDIZEN

    1. School of Life Sciences, University of Queensland, St Lucia QLD 4072 Australia,
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Stephanie L. Hazlitt. Fax: 07 33651655; E-mail: shazlitt@sols.uq.edu.au

Abstract

We combine spatial data on home ranges of individuals and microsatellite markers to examine patterns of fine-scale spatial genetic structure and dispersal within a brush-tailed rock-wallaby (Petrogale penicillata) colony at Hurdle Creek Valley, Queensland. Brush-tailed rock-wallabies were once abundant and widespread throughout the rocky terrain of southeastern Australia; however, populations are nearly extinct in the south of their range and in decline elsewhere. We use pairwise relatedness measures and a recent multilocus spatial autocorrelation analysis to test the hypotheses that in this species, within-colony dispersal is male-biased and that female philopatry results in spatial clusters of related females within the colony. We provide clear evidence for strong female philopatry and male-biased dispersal within this rock-wallaby colony. There was a strong, significant negative correlation between pairwise relatedness and geographical distance of individual females along only 800 m of cliff line. Spatial genetic autocorrelation analyses showed significant positive correlation for females in close proximity to each other and revealed a genetic neighbourhood size of only 600 m for females. Our study is the first to report on the fine-scale spatial genetic structure within a rock-wallaby colony and we provide the first robust evidence for strong female philopatry and spatial clustering of related females within this taxon. We discuss the ecological and conservation implications of our findings for rock-wallabies, as well as the importance of fine-scale spatial genetic patterns in studies of dispersal behaviour.

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