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Keywords:

  • abundance;
  • Australia;
  • flood;
  • microsatellite;
  • mitochondrial DNA;
  • Murray River

Abstract

Human activities such as regulating river flows, logging and removing fallen timber adversely affect floodplain ecosystems around the world. Studies of the dynamics of floodplain-dwelling populations will help to understand the effects of altered flood regimes and to manage and restore floodplains. The yellow-footed antechinus (Antechinus flavipes) is the only small, native, carnivorous mammal (Marsupialia) on many degraded floodplains in south-eastern Australia, where its abundance appears to increase with proximity to floods, which is partly due to enhanced survival (as inferred from increased abundance of second-year females). We analysed population genetic patterns and maternity among samples collected following the period of postnatal dispersal, in the years preceding and following planned floods, at different distances from flood locations along the Murray River. Our genic and genotypic analyses of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region haplotypes and 11 microsatellite loci demonstrated high immigration rates into sites in close proximity to floods. All sampled males emigrated from their natal sites to points of capture, while some females were philopatric. There were high rates of dispersal of males among all sites within a partially flooded forest, while females dispersed more to locations closest to inundations rather than to distant places. These results suggest that environmental flows are beneficial to antechinus both by enhancing adult survival and promoting dispersal of females.