Evolutionary history and genetic connectivity across highly fragmented populations of an endangered daisy

Yael S. Rodger, Alexandra Pavlova, Steve Sinclair, Melinda Pickup, Paul Sunnucks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Conservation management can be aided by knowledge of genetic diversity and evolutionary history, so that ecological and evolutionary processes can be preserved. The Button Wrinklewort daisy (Rutidosis leptorrhynchoides) was a common component of grassy ecosystems in south-eastern Australia. It is now endangered due to extensive habitat loss and the impacts of livestock grazing, and is currently restricted to a few small populations in two regions >500 km apart, one in Victoria, the other in the Australian Capital Territory and nearby New South Wales (ACT/NSW). Using a genome-wide SNP dataset, we assessed patterns of genetic structure and genetic differentiation of 12 natural diploid populations. We estimated intrapopulation genetic diversity to scope sources for genetic management. Bayesian clustering and principal coordinate analyses showed strong population genetic differentiation between the two regions, and substantial substructure within ACT/NSW. A coalescent tree-building approach implemented in SNAPP indicated evolutionary divergence between the two distant regions. Among the populations screened, the last two known remaining Victorian populations had the highest genetic diversity, despite having among the lowest recent census sizes. A maximum likelihood population tree method implemented in TreeMix suggested little or no recent gene flow except potentially between very close neighbours. Populations that were more genetically distinctive had lower genetic diversity, suggesting that drift in isolation is likely driving population differentiation though loss of diversity, hence re-establishing gene flow among them is desirable. These results provide background knowledge for evidence-based conservation and support genetic rescue within and between regions to elevate genetic diversity and alleviate inbreeding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)846–858
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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