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Breeding dynamics of koalas in open woodlands

W. A. EllisA, P. T. HaleB and F. CarrickA

ADepartment of Zoology and Entomology, and Koala Study Program, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia.
BDepartment of Zoology and Entomology, and Centre for Conservation Biology, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia.



The spatial and breeding dynamics of koalas in sub-tropical woodlands at Blair Athol in central Queensland were intensively monitored between 1993 and 1998. Genetic relationships among koalas at this locality were studied to determine the breeding dynamics of males, including whether ‘resident’ or ‘transient’ males dominate as sires. Males and females were radio-collared and tracked periodically throughout each year of the study. Genotypes from hypervariable microsatellite loci identified uniquely all individuals and were used to analyse parentage as well as to determine population genetic parameters when compared with other regional localities. Koalas at Blair Athol comprise a population in genetic equilibrium. Gene diversity estimates show the population to be similar to other populations found in similar habitat in the region, and estimates of genetic differentiation among four regional populations showed that gene flow conforms to a model of isolation by distance. Analysis of parentage found that both resident and transient males sired about equal numbers of offspring. Familial DNA analysis revealed multiple paternities of successive young in this population. The conclusion from this study is that ‘resident’ status among males does not confer any advantage for parentage.