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Susceptibility to a sexually-transmitted disease in a wild koala population shows heritable genetic variance but no inbreeding depression
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  • Romane Cristescu,
  • Kasha Strickland,
  • Anthony Schultz,
  • Loeske Kruuk,
  • Deirdre de Villiers,
  • Celine Frere
Romane Cristescu
University of the Sunshine Coast

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Kasha Strickland
The University of Edinburgh Institute of Evolutionary Biology
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Anthony Schultz
University of the Sunshine Coast
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Loeske Kruuk
Australian National University Research School of Biology
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Deirdre de Villiers
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Celine Frere
The University of Queensland
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The koala, one of the most iconic Australian wildlife species, is facing several concomitant threats that are driving population declines. Some threats are well known and have clear methods of prevention (e.g. habitat loss can be reduced with stronger land-clearing control), whereas others are less easily addressed. One of the major current threats to koalas is chlamydial disease, which can have major impacts on individual survival and reproduction rates, and can translate into population declines. Effective management strategies for the disease in the wild are currently lacking, and to date we know little about the determinants of individual susceptibility to disease. Here we used a rare opportunity to investigate the genetic basis of variation in susceptibility to chlamydia using one of the most intensively studied wild koala populations. We combine data from veterinary examinations, chlamydia testing, genetic sampling and movement monitoring. Out of our sample of 342 wild koalas, 60 were found to have chlamydia. Using genotype information on 8649 SNPs to investigate the role of genetic characteristics in determining disease status, we found no evidence of inbreeding depression, but a heritability of 0.14 (95%CI: 0.06 – 0.23) for the probability that koalas had chlamydia. Heritability of susceptibility to chlamydia could be relevant for future disease management in koalas, as it suggests the potential to select for disease resilience through assisted breeding.
28 Jun 2022Submitted to Molecular Ecology
29 Jun 2022Reviewer(s) Assigned
13 Jul 2022Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
25 Jul 2022Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
19 Aug 2022Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
19 Aug 20221st Revision Received
23 Aug 2022Editorial Decision: Accept
Nov 2022Published in Molecular Ecology volume 31 issue 21 on pages 5455-5467. 10.1111/mec.16676