Genetic diversity and structure of the threatened striped legless lizard, Delma impar: management implications for the species and a translocated population

  • Codie Murphy
  • Scott Burnett
  • Gabriel C. Conroy
  • Brett W. A. Howland
  • Robert W. Lamont
  • Joanna Sumner
  • Steven M. OgbourneEmail author
Research Article


The striped legless lizard, Delma impar, is a specialist grassland species restricted to south-eastern Australia. Anthropogenic influences have seen the destruction of much of its habitat and the species is threatened with extinction. Known populations of D. impar in Canberra (Australia) have recently been cleared for urban development. In 2015, Bush Heritage Australia translocated 41 individuals from these populations to Scottsdale Reserve. In this study, we completed the first population genetics analysis of D. impar in Canberra, providing a baseline for assessment of the genetic success of the translocation to Scottsdale Reserve. We analysed 154 D. impar individuals from six populations in Canberra, assessing levels of genetic diversity and differentiation within and between populations, using eight highly polymorphic microsatellite loci. High levels of genetic diversity and negligible levels of genetic differentiation were observed. Measures of allelic diversity were lower in the translocated population compared to the Canberra populations and Bayesian analysis revealed a disproportionate representation of two genetic clusters identified by STRUCTURE between the Scottsdale Reserve and Canberra populations, indicating that the initial genetic capture failed to ‘capture’ recommended levels of genetic diversity to support an ongoing population. If the species successfully establishes itself at Scottsdale Reserve, the data suggests that the population should be augmented with individuals from other sites in Canberra, with the aim of increasing genetic diversity to recommended levels (i.e. > 95% genetic variation). This will maximise resilience, adaptability and long-term survival potential of the Scottsdale Reserve population of striped legless lizards from a genetic context.


Microsatellite Population genetics Conservation genetics Pygopodidae Conservation Translocation 



The authors would like to thank Bush Heritage Australia, the University of the Sunshine Coast, and the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program for financial support and Bush Heritage Australia and Museum Victoria for providing samples. The authors would also like to thank Ton Stewart and Elektra Grant for assistance with sample analysis, and Umwelt and Capital Ecology consultancies for providing several skin samples for analysis.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 89 KB)
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Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 17 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.GeneCology Research Centre, Faculty of Science, Health, Engineering and EducationUniversity of the Sunshine CoastMaroochydore DCAustralia
  2. 2.School of Science and EngineeringUniversity of the Sunshine CoastMaroochydore DCAustralia
  3. 3.Fenner School of Environment and Society, ANU College of Medicine, Biology and EnvironmentThe Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  4. 4.Parks and Conservation ServiceAustralian Capital Territory GovernmentCanberraAustralia
  5. 5.Museums VictoriaMelbourneAustralia

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