• Genome-wide SNP loci reveal novel insights into koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) population variability across its range

      Kjeldsen, Shannon R.; Zenger, Kyall R.; Leigh, Kellie; Ellis, William A.; Tobey, Jennifer R.; Phalen, David; Melzer, Alistair; FitzGibbon, Sean; Raadsma, Herman W. (2016)
      The koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) is an iconic Australian species that is currently undergoing a number of threatening processes, including disease and habitat loss. A thorough understanding of population genetic structuring and genomic variability of this species is essential to effectively manage populations across the species range. Using a reduced representation genome sequencing method known as double digest restriction-associated sequencing, this study has provided the first genome-wide SNP marker panel in the koala. In this study, 33,019 loci were identified in the koala and a filtered panel of 3060 high-utility SNP markers, including 95 sex-linked markers, were used to provide key insights into population variability and genomic variation in 171 koalas from eight populations across their geographic range. Broad-scale genetic differentiation between geographically separated populations (including sub-species) was assessed and revealed significant differentiation between all populations (FST range = 0.01–0.28), with the largest divergence observed between the three geographically distant subgroups (QLD, NSW and VIC) along the east coast of Australia (average FST range = 0.17–0.23). Sub-group divergence appears to be a reflection of an isolation by distance effect and sampling strategy rather than true evidence of sub-speciation. This is further supported by low proportions of AMOVA variation between sub-species groups (11.19 %). Fine-scale analysis using genome-wide SNP loci and the NETVIEW pipeline revealed cryptic genetic sub-structuring within localised geographic regions, which corresponded to the hierarchical mating system of the species. High levels of genome-wide SNP heterozygosity were observed amongst all populations (He = 0.25–0.35), and when evaluating across the species to other vertebrate taxa were amongst the highest values observed. This illustrates that the species as a whole still retains high levels of diversity which is comparable to other outbred vertebrate taxa for genome-wide SNPs. Insights into the potential for adaptive variation in the koala were also gained using outlier analysis of genome-wide SNPs. A total of 10 putative outlier SNPs were identified indicating the high likelihood of local adaptations within populations and regions. This is the first use of genome-wide markers to assess population differentiation at a broad-scale in the koala and the first time that sex-linked SNPs have been identified in this species. The application of this novel genomic resource to populations across the species range will provide in-depth information allowing informed conservation priorities and management plans for in situ koalas across Australia and ex situ around the world.
    • Genomic comparisons reveal biogeographic and anthropogenic impacts in the koala ( Phascolarctos cinereus ): a dietary-specialist species distributed across heterogeneous environments

      Kjeldsen, Shannon R.; Raadsma, Herman W.; Leigh, Kellie A.; Tobey, Jennifer R.; Phalen, David; Krockenberger, Andrew; Ellis, William A.; Hynes, Emily; Higgins, Damien P.; Zenger, Kyall R. (2018)
      The Australian koala is an iconic marsupial with highly specific dietary requirements distributed across heterogeneous environments, over a large geographic range. The distribution and genetic structure of koala populations has been heavily influenced by human actions, specifically habitat modification, hunting and translocation of koalas. There is currently limited information on population diversity and gene flow at a species-wide scale, or with consideration to the potential impacts of local adaptation. Using species-wide sampling across heterogeneous environments, and high-density genome-wide markers (SNPs and PAVs), we show that most koala populations display levels of diversity comparable to other outbred species, except for those populations impacted by population reductions. Genetic clustering analysis and phylogenetic reconstruction reveals a lack of support for current taxonomic classification of three koala subspecies, with only a single evolutionary significant unit supported. Furthermore, ~70% of genetic variance is accounted for at the individual level. The Sydney Basin region is highlighted as a unique reservoir of genetic diversity, having higher diversity levels (i.e., Blue Mountains region; AvHecorr=0.20, PL%?=?68.6). Broad-scale population differentiation is primarily driven by an isolation by distance genetic structure model (49% of genetic variance), with clinal local adaptation corresponding to habitat bioregions. Signatures of selection were detected between bioregions, with no single region returning evidence of strong selection. The results of this study show that although the koala is widely considered to be a dietary-specialist species, this apparent specialisation has not limited the koala’s ability to maintain gene flow and adapt across divergent environments as long as the required food source is available.