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Open Access Article     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 34(8)

Using population genetic tools to develop a control strategy for feral cats (Felis catus) in Hawai‘i

Heidi Hansen A B, Steven C. Hess C E, David Cole A D, Paul C. Banko C

A Hawai‘i Cooperative Studies Unit (PACRC, UH Hilo), US Geological Survey Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center, Kīlauea Field Station, PO Box 44, Hawai‘i National Park, HI 96718 USA.
B Current address: Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife, 19 East Kawili Street, Hilo, HI 96720, USA.
C US Geological Survey Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center, Kīlauea Field Station, PO Box 44, Hawai‘i National Park, HI 96718 USA.
D Current address: University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, 3190 Maile Way, Room 101, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA.
E Corresponding author. Email: steve_hess@usgs.gov
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Population genetics can provide information about the demographics and dynamics of invasive species that is beneficial for developing effective control strategies. We studied the population genetics of feral cats on Hawai‘i Island by microsatellite analysis to evaluate genetic diversity and population structure, assess gene flow and connectivity among three populations, identify potential source populations, characterise population dynamics, and evaluate sex-biased dispersal. High genetic diversity, low structure, and high number of migrants per generation supported high gene flow that was not limited spatially. Migration rates revealed that most migration occurred out of West Mauna Kea. Effective population size estimates indicated increasing cat populations despite control efforts. Despite high gene flow, relatedness estimates declined significantly with increased geographic distance and Bayesian assignment tests revealed the presence of three population clusters. Genetic structure and relatedness estimates indicated male-biased dispersal, primarily from Mauna Kea, suggesting that this population should be targeted for control. However, recolonisation seems likely, given the great dispersal ability that may not be inhibited by barriers such as lava flows. Genetic monitoring will be necessary to assess the effectiveness of future control efforts. Management of other invasive species may benefit by employing these population genetic tools.

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