Feral Pig Populations Are Structured at Fine Spatial Scales in Tropical Queensland, Australia
Feral pigs occur throughout tropical far north Queensland, Australia and are a significant threat to biodiversity and World Heritage values, agriculture and are a vector of infectious diseases. One of the constraints on long-lasting, local eradication of feral pigs is the process of reinvasion into recently controlled areas. This study examined the population genetic structure of feral pigs in far north Queensland to identify the extent of movement and the scale at which demographically independent management units exist. Genetic analysis of 328 feral pigs from the Innisfail to Tully region of tropical Queensland was undertaken. Seven microsatellite loci were screened and Bayesian clustering methods used to infer population clusters. Sequence variation at the mitochondrial DNA control region was examined to identify pig breed. Significant population structure was identified in the study area at a scale of 25 to 35 km, corresponding to three demographically independent management units (MUs). Distinct natural or anthropogenic barriers were not found, but environmental features such as topography and land use appear to influence patterns of gene flow. Despite the strong, overall pattern of structure, some feral pigs clearly exhibited ancestry from a MU outside of that from which they were sampled indicating isolated long distance dispersal or translocation events. Furthermore, our results suggest that gene flow is restricted among pigs of domestic Asian and European origin and non-random mating influences management unit boundaries. We conclude that the three MUs identified in this study should be considered as operational units for feral pig control in far north Queensland. Within a MU, coordinated and simultaneous control is required across farms, rainforest areas and National Park Estates to prevent recolonisation from adjacent localities.