Population genetics of a lethally managed medium-sized predator

Kerry Slater, Deon de Jager, Anna M. van Wyk, Desire Lee Dalton, Anna S. Kropff, I Du Preez

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Abstract

Globally, levels of human–wildlife conflict are increasing as a direct consequence
of the expansion of people into natural areas resulting in competition with wildlife
for food and other resources. By being forced into increasingly smaller pockets of
suitable habitat, many animal species are at risk of becoming susceptible to loss of genetic diversity, inbreeding depression and the associated inability to adapt to
environmental changes. Predators are often lethally controlled due to their threat to livestock. Predators such as jackals (black backed, golden and side striped; Canis mesomelas, C. aureus and C. adustus, respectively), red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and coyotes (C. latrans) are highly adaptable and may respond to ongoing persecution through compensatory reproduction such as reproducing at a younger age, producing larger litters and/or compensatory immigration including dispersal into vacant territories. Despite decades of lethal management, jackals are problematic predators of livestock in South Africa and, although considered a temporary measure, culling of jackals is still common. Culling may affect social groups, kinship structure, reproductive strategies and sex-biased dispersal in this species. Here, we investigated genetic structure, variation and relatedness of 178 culled jackals on private small-livestock farms in the central Karoo of South Africa using 13 microsatellites. Genetic variation was moderate to high and was similar per year and per farm. An absence of genetic differentiation was observed based on STRUCTURE, principal component analysis and AMOVA. Relatedness was significantly higher within farms (r = 0.189) than between farms (r = 0.077), a result corroborated by spatial autocorrelation analysis. We documented 18 occurrences of dispersal events where full siblings were detected on different farms (range: 0.78–42.93 km). Distance between identified parent–offspring varied from 0 to 36.49 km. No evidence for sex-biased dispersal was found. Our results suggest that in response to ongoing lethal management, this population is most likely able to maintain genetic diversity through physiological and behavioural compensation mechanisms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Zoology
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022

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