School of BioSciences - Research Publications

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    Conservation genetics as a management tool: The five best-supported paradigms to assist the management of threatened species
    Willi, Y ; Kristensen, TN ; Sgro, CM ; Weeks, AR ; orsted, M ; Hoffmann, AA (NATL ACAD SCIENCES, 2022-01-04)
    About 50 y ago, Crow and Kimura [An Introduction to Population Genetics Theory (1970)] and Ohta and Kimura [Genet. Res. 22, 201-204 (1973)] laid the foundations of conservation genetics by predicting the relationship between population size and genetic marker diversity. This work sparked an enormous research effort investigating the importance of population dynamics, in particular small population size, for population mean performance, population viability, and evolutionary potential. In light of a recent perspective [J. C. Teixeira, C. D. Huber, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 118, 10 (2021)] that challenges some fundamental assumptions in conservation genetics, it is timely to summarize what the field has achieved, what robust patterns have emerged, and worthwhile future research directions. We consider theory and methodological breakthroughs that have helped management, and we outline some fundamental and applied challenges for conservation genetics.
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    Australian Bryobia mites (Trombidiformes: Tetranychidae) form a complex of cryptic taxa with unique climatic niches and insecticide responses
    Umina, PA ; Weeks, AR ; Maino, JL ; Hoffmann, AA ; Song, SV ; Thia, J ; Severtson, D ; Cheng, X ; van Rooyen, A ; Arthur, AA (JOHN WILEY & SONS LTD, 2022-04-22)
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    Contrasting patterns of population connectivity between regions in a commercially important mollusc Haliotis rubra: integrating population genetics, genomics and marine LiDAR data
    Miller, AD ; van Rooyen, A ; Rasic, G ; Ierodiaconou, DA ; Gorfine, HK ; Day, R ; Wong, C ; Hoffmann, AA ; Weeks, AR (WILEY, 2016-08-01)
    Estimating contemporary genetic structure and population connectivity in marine species is challenging, often compromised by genetic markers that lack adequate sensitivity, and unstructured sampling regimes. We show how these limitations can be overcome via the integration of modern genotyping methods and sampling designs guided by LiDAR and SONAR data sets. Here we explore patterns of gene flow and local genetic structure in a commercially harvested abalone species (Haliotis rubra) from southeastern Australia, where the viability of fishing stocks is believed to be dictated by recruitment from local sources. Using a panel of microsatellite and genomewide SNP markers, we compare allele frequencies across a replicated hierarchical sampling area guided by bathymetric LiDAR imagery. Results indicate high levels of gene flow and no significant genetic structure within or between benthic reef habitats across 1400 km of coastline. These findings differ to those reported for other regions of the fishery indicating that larval supply is likely to be spatially variable, with implications for management and long-term recovery from stock depletion. The study highlights the utility of suitably designed genetic markers and spatially informed sampling strategies for gaining insights into recruitment patterns in benthic marine species, assisting in conservation planning and sustainable management of fisheries.
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    Persistence of a Wolbachia infection frequency cline in Drosophila melanogaster and the possible role of reproductive dormancy
    Kriesner, P ; Conner, WR ; Weeks, AR ; Turelli, M ; Hoffmann, AA (WILEY, 2016-05-01)
    Field populations of arthropods are often polymorphic for Wolbachia but the factors maintaining intermediate Wolbachia frequencies are generally not understood. In Drosophila melanogaster, Wolbachia frequencies are highly variable across the globe. We document the persistence of a Wolbachia infection frequency cline in D. melanogaster populations from eastern Australia across at least 20 years, with frequencies generally high in the tropics but lower in cool temperate regions. The results are interpreted using a model of frequency dynamics incorporating cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI), imperfect maternal transmission and Wolbachia effects on fitness. Clinal variation is less pronounced in eastern North America which may reflect annual recolonization at higher latitudes. Limited samples from Africa from latitudes matching our tropical and subtropical samples from Australia and North America show comparably high infection frequencies, but some equatorial samples show lower frequencies. Adult dormancy across cold periods may contribute to the Australian Wolbachia cline. Infected flies exposed to cold conditions for an extended period had reduced fecundity and viability, an effect not evident in unexposed controls. These fitness costs may contribute to the relatively low Wolbachia frequencies in Australian temperate areas; whereas different processes, including CI induced by young males, may contribute to higher frequencies in tropical locations.
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    Incursion pathways of theAsiantiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) intoAustraliacontrast sharply with those of the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti)
    Schmidt, TL ; Chung, J ; van Rooyen, AR ; Sly, A ; Weeks, AR ; Hoffmann, AA (JOHN WILEY & SONS LTD, 2020-07-25)
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    Heterogeneous genetic invasions of three insecticide resistance mutations in Indo-Pacific populations of Aedes aegypti (L.)
    Endersby-Harshman, NM ; Schmidt, TL ; Chung, J ; van Rooyen, A ; Weeks, AR ; Hoffmann, AA (WILEY, 2020-04-21)
    Nations throughout the Indo-Pacific region use pyrethroid insecticides to control Aedes aegypti, the mosquito vector of dengue, often without knowledge of pyrethroid resistance status of the pest or origin of resistance. Two mutations (V1016G + F1534C) in the sodium channel gene (Vssc) of Ae. aegypti modify ion channel function and cause target-site resistance to pyrethroid insecticides, with a third mutation (S989P) having a potential additive effect. Of 27 possible genotypes involving these mutations, some allelic combinations are never seen whereas others predominate. Here, five allelic combinations common in Ae. aegypti from the Indo-Pacific region are described and their geographical distributions investigated using genome-wide SNP markers. We tested the hypothesis that resistance allele combinations evolved de novo in populations versus the alternative that dispersal of Ae. aegypti between populations facilitated genetic invasions of allele combinations. We used latent factor mixed-models to detect SNPs throughout the genome that showed structuring in line with resistance allele combinations and compared variation at SNPs within the Vssc gene with genome-wide variation. Mixed-models detected an array of SNPs linked to resistance allele combinations, all located within or in close proximity to the Vssc gene. Variation at SNPs within the Vssc gene was structured by resistance profile, whereas genome-wide SNPs were structured by population. These results demonstrate that alleles near to resistance mutations have been transferred between populations via linked selection. This indicates that genetic invasions have contributed to the widespread occurrence of Vssc allele combinations in Ae. aegypti in the Indo-Pacific region, pointing to undocumented mosquito invasions between countries.
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    Genetic mixing for population management: From genetic rescue to provenancing
    Hoffmann, AA ; Miller, AD ; Weeks, AR (WILEY, 2020-11-06)
    Animal and plant species around the world are being challenged by the deleterious effects of inbreeding, loss of genetic diversity, and maladaptation due to widespread habitat destruction and rapid climate change. In many cases, interventions will likely be needed to safeguard populations and species and to maintain functioning ecosystems. Strategies aimed at initiating, reinstating, or enhancing patterns of gene flow via the deliberate movement of genotypes around the environment are generating growing interest with broad applications in conservation and environmental management. These diverse strategies go by various names ranging from genetic or evolutionary rescue to provenancing and genetic resurrection. Our aim here is to provide some clarification around terminology and to how these strategies are connected and linked to underlying genetic processes. We draw on case studies from the literature and outline mechanisms that underlie how the various strategies aim to increase species fitness and impact the wider community. We argue that understanding mechanisms leading to species decline and community impact is a key to successful implementation of these strategies. We emphasize the need to consider the nature of source and recipient populations, as well as associated risks and trade-offs for the various strategies. This overview highlights where strategies are likely to have potential at population, species, and ecosystem scales, but also where they should probably not be attempted depending on the overall aims of the intervention. We advocate an approach where short- and long-term strategies are integrated into a decision framework that also considers nongenetic aspects of management.
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    Genetic rescue increases fitness and aids rapid recovery of an endangered marsupial population
    Weeks, AR ; Heinze, D ; Perrin, L ; Stoklosa, J ; Hoffmann, AA ; van Rooyen, A ; Kelly, T ; Mansergh, I (NATURE PORTFOLIO, 2017-10-20)
    Genetic rescue has now been attempted in several threatened species, but the contribution of genetics per se to any increase in population health can be hard to identify. Rescue is expected to be particularly useful when individuals are introduced into small isolated populations with low levels of genetic variation. Here we consider such a situation by documenting genetic rescue in the mountain pygmy possum, Burramys parvus. Rapid population recovery occurred in the target population after the introduction of a small number of males from a large genetically diverged population. Initial hybrid fitness was more than two-fold higher than non-hybrids; hybrid animals had a larger body size, and female hybrids produced more pouch young and lived longer. Genetic rescue likely contributed to the largest population size ever being recorded at this site. These data point to genetic rescue as being a potentially useful option for the recovery of small threatened populations.
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    Rapid Sequential Spread of Two Wolbachia Variants in Drosophila simulans
    Kriesner, P ; Hoffmann, AA ; Lee, SF ; Turelli, M ; Weeks, AR ; Charlat, S (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2013-09-01)
    The maternally inherited intracellular bacteria Wolbachia can manipulate host reproduction in various ways that foster frequency increases within and among host populations. Manipulations involving cytoplasmic incompatibility (CI), where matings between infected males and uninfected females produce non-viable embryos, are common in arthropods and produce a reproductive advantage for infected females. CI was associated with the spread of Wolbachia variant wRi in Californian populations of Drosophila simulans, which was interpreted as a bistable wave, in which local infection frequencies tend to increase only once the infection becomes sufficiently common to offset imperfect maternal transmission and infection costs. However, maternally inherited Wolbachia are expected to evolve towards mutualism, and they are known to increase host fitness by protecting against infectious microbes or increasing fecundity. We describe the sequential spread over approximately 20 years in natural populations of D. simulans on the east coast of Australia of two Wolbachia variants (wAu and wRi), only one of which causes significant CI, with wRi displacing wAu since 2004. Wolbachia and mtDNA frequency data and analyses suggest that these dynamics, as well as the earlier spread in California, are best understood as Fisherian waves of favourable variants, in which local spread tends to occur from arbitrarily low frequencies. We discuss implications for Wolbachia-host dynamics and coevolution and for applications of Wolbachia to disease control.
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    Population Genetic Structure of Aedes (Stegomyia) aegypti (L.) at a Micro-Spatial Scale in Thailand: Implications for a Dengue Suppression Strategy
    Olanratmanee, P ; Kittayapong, P ; Chansang, C ; Hoffmann, AA ; Weeks, AR ; Endersby, NM ; Hirayama, K (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2013-01-01)
    BACKGROUND: The genetic population structure of Aedes (Stegomyia) aegypti (L.), the main vector of dengue virus, is being investigated in areas where a novel dengue suppression program is to be implemented. The aim of the program is to release and establish mosquito populations with impaired virus transmission capabilities. To model effects of the release and devise protocols for its implementation, information about the genetic structure of populations at a range of spatial scales is required. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: This study investigates a potential release site in the Hua Sam Rong Subdistrict of Plaeng Yao District, Chachoengsao Province, in eastern Thailand which comprises a complex of five villages within a 10 km radius. Aedes aegypti resting indoors was sampled at four different times of year from houses within the five villages. Genetic markers were used to screen the mosquitoes: two Exon Primed Intron Crossing (EPIC) markers and five microsatellite markers. The raw allele size was determined using several statistical software packages to analyze the population structure of the mosquito. Estimates of effective population size for each village were low, but there was no evidence of genetic isolation by geographic distance. CONCLUSIONS: The presence of temporary genetic structure is possibly caused by genetic drift due to large contributions of adults from a few breeding containers. This suggests that the introduction of mosquitoes into an area needs to proceed through multiple releases and targeting of sites where mosquitoes are emerging in large numbers.