Our study of Eastern Quolls has identified the genetically diverse central Tasmanian populations as a high priority for conservation.
Eastern Quolls are medium-sized carnivorous marsupials weighing up to 1.5 kg and prey on a variety of large insects and small mammals, birds and reptiles. Eastern Quolls were once common and widespread on the Australian mainland, being found from northern New South Wales to south eastern South Australia. However, since the introduction of the European Red Fox to the Australia mainland, Eastern Quolls have disappeared with the last known specimen recorded from Neilson Park, in eastern Sydney in 1963.
The Eastern Quoll is still relatively abundant in Tasmania but it is likely to decline in the near future. Until recently Tasmania has been free from foxes and Eastern Quolls and many other native mammals remained abundant. However, it appears foxes have recently been introduced to Tasmania and that Eastern Quolls have started to decline.
Information on species ecology and behavior is vital for wildlife managers, but we currently lack detailed information on Eastern Quolls. One way to rapidly obtain some information is to use genetic data as a surrogate, because looking at an animal’s genes tells you a lot about how those animals move around the landscape.
The aim of our study was to acquire baseline data for Tasmanian Eastern Quolls, for use in current and future conservation strategies. We sampled 425 quolls from 10 populations across Tasmania and assessed the distribution of genetic diversity within them.
We found significant regional differentiation across Tasmania, indicating that while Eastern Quolls do move around the landscape a little, they are not highly mobile. We also found that Eastern Quoll populations in central Tasmania were the most genetically variable. This high diversity makes central Tasmanian populations a high priority for conservation and an ideal source of animals for management initiatives.
These new findings will significantly inform future management plans for Eastern Quolls to ensure that the Tasmanian populations do not suffer the same fate as their mainland cousins.
Dr Mark Eldridge
Senior Research Scientist
Cardoso MJ, Mooney N, Eldridge MDB, Firestone KB and Sherwin WB, 2014. Genetic monitoring reveals significant population structure in Eastern Quolls – implications for the conservation of a threatened carnivorous marsupial. Australian Mammalogy, early on-line: dx.doi.org/10.1071/AM13035