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It’s in the genes

Researcher Dr Andrew Veale has been looking at how the population genomics of wallabies could assist control programme planning. Andrew led a landscape genomics study using genotyping-by-sequencing (GBS) to help understand invasive wallaby ecology in Aotearoa New Zealand (AoNZ), and to provide tools that will assist in management and eradication efforts.

“From samples obtained from control operations we genotyped 188 wallaby individuals, including 94 Bennett’s wallabies, 7 parma wallabies, and 87 dama wallabies,” says Andrew.

“We found 29,080 genetic markers or signposts that helped us understand how populations of dama and Bennett’s wallabies are structured. We discovered that both species primarily show a pattern called isolation-by-distance, which means that wallabies closer together are more genetically similar than those further apart. Most of their movement seems to happen over short distances, usually less than a few kilometres.

Nevertheless, Andrew says that in some cases the team found dama wallabies in places such as Taranaki and Wellington, far from their usual habitat. “We also identified parts of the landscape where there are fewer connections between wallaby populations. These areas could be useful for deciding where to set boundaries for eradication efforts.”

“Interestingly, the study found three pure parma wallabies in the Bay of Plenty. This species hasn’t been noticed before among the dama wallabies and might have different effects on the environment. They’ve likely been in the Bay of Plenty for around 80 years without being identified.”

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