Targeted control of feral pigs in far north Queensland : defining management units using molecular techniques

Lopez, Jobina (2013) Targeted control of feral pigs in far north Queensland : defining management units using molecular techniques. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


The feral pig, Sus scrofa, is a widespread and abundant invasive species in Australia. Feral pigs pose a significant threat to the environment, agricultural industry, and human health, and in far north Queensland they endanger World Heritage values of the Wet Tropics. Historical records document the first introduction of domestic pigs into Australia via European settlers in 1788 and subsequent introductions from Asia from 1827 onwards. Since this time, domestic pigs have been accidentally and deliberately released into the wild and significant feral pig populations have become established, resulting in the declaration of this species as a class 2 pest in Queensland.

The overall objective of this study was to assess the population genetic structure of feral pigs in far north Queensland, in particular to enable delineation of demographically independent management units. The identification of ecologically meaningful management units using molecular techniques can assist in targeting feral pig control to bring about effective long-term management.

Molecular genetic analysis was undertaken on 434 feral pigs from 35 localities between Tully and Innisfail. Seven polymorphic and unlinked microsatellite loci were screened and fixation indices (FST and analogues) and Bayesian clustering methods were used to identify population structure and management units in the study area. Sequencing of the hyper-variable mitochondrial control region (D-loop) of 35 feral pigs was also examined to identify pig ancestry.

Three management units were identified in the study at a scale of 25 to 35 km. Even with the strong pattern of genetic structure identified in the study area, some evidence of long distance dispersal and/or translocation was found as a small number of individuals exhibited ancestry from a management unit outside of which they were sampled. Overall, gene flow in the study area was found to be influenced by environmental features such as topography and land use, but no distinct or obvious natural or anthropogenic geographic barriers were identified. Furthermore, strong evidence was found for non-random mating between pigs of European and Asian breeds indicating that feral pig ancestry influences their population genetic structure. Phylogenetic analysis revealed two distinct mitochondrial DNA clades, representing Asian domestic pig breeds and European breeds. A significant finding was that pigs of Asian origin living in Innisfail and south Tully were not mating randomly with European breed pigs populating the nearby Mission Beach area.

Feral pig control should be implemented in each of the management units identified in this study. The control should be coordinated across properties within each management unit to prevent re-colonisation from adjacent localities. The adjacent rainforest and National Park Estates, as well as the rainforest-crop boundary should be included in a simultaneous control operation for greater success.

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ID Code: 61088
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Fuller, Susan & Hurwood, David
Keywords: feral pigs, Sus scrofa, far north Queensland, population structure, microsatellites, nuclear DNA, mitochondrial DNA, gene flow, management units, wildlife management
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 02 Jul 2013 23:01
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2015 04:51

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