Hybrid possum gives endangered species a chance

May 26, 2011

Australian researchers have successfully bred two genetically distinct Mountain Pygmy-possums, playing a major role in preventing the endangered population in the Victorian Alpine region from further decline.

The team, which included scientists from the University of Melbourne (Andrew Weeks), the Department of Sustainability and Environment (Ian Mansergh), and Healesville Sanctuary (Rupert Baker), as well as wildlife consultant Dean Heinze took six male Mountain Pygmy-possums, caught in the wild at Mt Hotham and released them at Mt Buller.

A temporary re-location of Mt Hotham males into the territory of females at Mt Buller during the breeding season has succeeded in producing the first wild-born male Pygmy-possum with from both populations.

Melbourne University’s Dr Andrew Weeks of the Department of Genetics and Bio21 Institute said that the isolated populations of Mountain Pygmy-possums, Australia’s only hibernating marsupial and confined to Alpine environments, had lost all genetic diversity and relocation was vital.

“The smaller populations meant the species was open to inbreeding which would affect their ability to survive and adapt to change and the hybrid offspring would reinvigorate the species, so this in an excellent outcome,” he said.

DSE scientist Ian Mansergh said they couldn’t be more thrilled with the results. “We knew through the Healesville captive breeding program that the two genetically distinct Mt Hotham and Mt Buller populations could breed and it would strengthen the genetics of the Mt Buller .”

Mountain Pygmy-possums have one breeding season per year and can have up to four young at one time. In the wild during winter they hibernate at 2oC for up to six months under the snow.

Captive breeding commenced at Healesville Sanctuary in 2006. The program makes possible a future re-introduction of possums to supplement the Mt Buller population.

“We’re hoping to improve genetic diversity on Mt Buller so that it can sustain itself until the captive program can re-introduce more animals,” said Dr Rupert Baker, Senior Veterinarian Healesville Sanctuary.

Explore further: Female color perception affects evolution of male plumage in birds

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Can the past secure pygmy possum's future?

Oct 08, 2010

Australia's ancient past may provide vital clues about how to secure the future of one of Australia's most endangered animals, the charismatic mountain pygmy possum, according to leading palaeontologist Professor ...

Believing in the pygmy bunny

Apr 20, 2011

Like the Easter Bunny, the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit of Washington state may soon exist only in our imaginations. None have been seen in the wild since 2004. But a new breeding program is aiming to rebuild ...

Playing possum: one love or free love?

Aug 21, 2006

Why are some males faithful, stay-at-home partners while others sleep around, with no strings attached? In mountain brushtail possums, it turns out to depend on how disturbed their home is.

Australia swaps summer for Christmas snow

Dec 20, 2010

Snow fell in Australia on Monday, as the usual hot and summery December weather was replaced in parts by icy gusts sweeping up from the Southern Ocean, giving the country a taste of a white Christmas.

Brain cells help neighboring nerves regenerate

May 27, 2008

Researchers have uncovered a completely unexpected way that the brain repairs nerve damage, wherein cells known as astrocytes deliver a protective protein to nearby neurons.

Recommended for you

Amazonian shrimps: An underwater world still unknown

1 hour ago

A study reveals how little we know about the Amazonian diversity. Aiming to resolve a scientific debate about the validity of two species of freshwater shrimp described in the first half of the last century, ...

Factors that drive sexual traits

2 hours ago

Many male animals have multiple displays and behaviours to attract females; and often the larger or greater the better.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.