Refereed Article Molecular detection of hybridisation between sympatric kangaroo species in south-eastern Australia

Citation: Neaves, L.E., Zenger, K.R., Cooper, D.W. and Eldridge, M.D.B. 2010. Molecular detection of hybridisation between sympatric kangaroo species in south-eastern Australia. Heredity. 104. (5): 502-512.

Abstract:

Introgressive hybridisation has traditionally been regarded as rare in many vertebrate groups, including mammals. Despite a propensity to hybridize in captivity, introgression has rarely been reported between wild sympatric macropodid marsupials. Here we investigate sympatric populations of western (Macropus fuliginosus) and eastern (Macropus giganteus) grey kangaroos via twelve 12 autosomal microsatellite loci and 626 base pairs of hypervariable mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region. M. fuliginosus and M. giganteus within the region of sympatry corresponded, both genetically and morphologically, to their respective species elsewhere in their distributions. 7.6% of the 223 individuals examined, displayed evidence of introgression, although no F1 hybrids were detected. In contrast to captive studies, there was no evidence for unidirectional hybridisation in sympatric grey kangaroos. However, a higher portion of M. giganteus backcrosses existed within the sample compared with M. fuliginosus. Hybridisation in grey kangaroos is reflective of occasional breakdowns in species boundaries, occurring throughout the region and potentially associated with variable conditions and dramatic reductions in densities. Such rare hybridisation events allow populations to incorporate novel diversity whilst still retaining species integrity.

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Tags marsupial, genetics, mammal, macropod,