Small and isolated populations are subject to the loss of genetic variation as a consequence of inbreeding and genetic drift, which in turn, can affect the fitness and long-term viability of populations. Translocations can be used as an effective conservation tool to combat this loss of genetic diversity through establishing new populations of threatened species, and to increase total population size. Releasing animals from multiple genetically diverged sources is one method to optimize genetic diversity in translocated populations. However, admixture as a conservation tool is rarely utilized due to the risks of outbreeding depression. Using high-resolution genomic markers through double-digest restriction site-associated sequencing (ddRAD-seq) and life history data collected over nine years of monitoring, this study investigates the genetic and fitness consequences of admixing two genetically-distinct subspecies of Bettongia lesueur
in a conservation translocation. Using single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) identified from 215 individuals from multiple generations, we found an almost 2-fold increase in genetic diversity in the admixed translocation population compared to the founder populations, and this was maintained over time. Furthermore, hybrid class did not significantly impact on survivorship or the recruitment rate and therefore we found no indication of outbreeding depression. This study demonstrates the beneficial application of mixing multiple source populations in the conservation of threatened species for minimizing inbreeding and enhancing adaptive potential and overall fitness.
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