The Pygmy Bluetongue Lizard (PBT), Tiliqua adelaidensis, is endemic to the native grasslands of the Mid-North region of South Australia and exclusively inhabits burrows dug by lycosid and mygalomorph spiders. Habitat destruction by urbanisation and cropping has restricted its distribution to a small number of isolated populations across its former range. Bio-climatic modelling indicates that the PBT is further threatened by climate change. Translocation is an arguably viable conservation strategy, and an experimental translocation is planned for early 2016, allowing us to assess the ecological and also parasite/pathogen transmission risks posed by uniting PBT lizards from a donor population with PBT lizards from the recipient community.
Variation within and between PBT populations will be assessed prior to the translocation, by characterising endoparasitic biota from up to ten PBT individuals from ten isolated populations from across the species range. Parasite taxa targeted for typing will include enteric bacteria (using high-throughput metagenomic techniques), a PBT-specific nematode Pharyngodon wandillahensis, and if present, blood and gut protozoans (to be detected by microscope), and viruses (to be detected by serology). Inter-population variation will be assessed by parasite community composition analysis and by whether there are genetic differences between common parasitic species. Any distinct inter-population differences in parasite biota will serve as markers of host population of origin, as transmission dynamics between translocated and resident reptiles are monitored after the translocation. In the two years following the translocation, parasite biota of PBT individuals will be compared to their status as donor or resident, and to measures of fitness (body condition, reproductive success), allowing us assess the risk posed by parasite/pathogen transmission and the viability of translocation as a conservation strategy for Tiliqua adelaidensis, and more broadly for other endangered species.