Extensive genetic differentiation detected within a model marsupial, the tammar wallaby (Notamacropus eugenii)

Mark D.B. Eldridge, Emily J. Miller, Linda E. Neaves, Kyall R. Zenger, Catherine A. Herbert

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8 Citations (Scopus)


The tammar wallaby (Notamacropus eugenii) is one of the most intensively studied of all macropodids and was the first Australasian marsupial to have its genome sequenced. However, comparatively little is known about genetic diversity and differentiation amongst the morphologically distinct allopatric populations of tammar wallabies found in Western (WA) and South Australia (SA). Here we compare autosomal and Y-linked microsatellite genotypes, as well as sequence data (~600 bp) from the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region (CR) in tammar wallabies from across its distribution. Levels of diversity at autosomal microsatellite loci were typically high in the WA mainland and Kangaroo Island (SA) populations (A = 8.9-10.6; He = 0.77-0.78) but significantly reduced in other endemic island populations (A = 3.8-4.1; He = 0.41-0.48). Autosomal and Y-linked microsatellite loci revealed a pattern of significant differentiation amongst populations, especially between SA and WA. The Kangaroo Island and introduced New Zealand population showed limited differentiation. Multiple divergent mtDNA CR haplotypes were identified within both SA and WA populations. The CR haplotypes of tammar wallabies from SA and WA show reciprocal monophyly and are highly divergent (14.5%), with levels of sequence divergence more typical of different species. Within WA tammar wallabies, island populations each have unique clusters of highly related CR haplotypes and each is most closely related to different WA mainland haplotypes. Y-linked microsatellite haplotypes show a similar pattern of divergence although levels of diversity are lower. In light of these differences, we suggest that two subspecies of tammar wallaby be recognized; Notamacropus eugenii eugenii in SA and N. eugenii derbianus in WA. The extensive neutral genetic diversity and inter-population differentiation identified within tammar wallabies should further increase the species value and usefulness as a model organism.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0172777
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes


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