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Founder Effects, Inbreeding, and Loss of Genetic Diversity in Four Avian Reintroduction Programs

By Ian Jamieson

University of Otago

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Abstract

The number of individuals translocated and released as part of a reintroduction is often small, as is the final established population, because the reintroduction site is typically small. Small founder and small resulting populations can result in population bottlenecks, which are associated with increased rates of inbreeding and loss of genetic diversity, both of which can affect the long-term viability of reintroduced populations. I used information derived from pedigrees of four monogamous bird species reintroduced onto two different islands (220 and 259 ha) in New Zealand to compare the pattern of inbreeding and loss of genetic diversity among the reintroduced populations. Although reintroduced populations founded with few individuals had higher levels of inbreeding, as predicted, other factors, including biased sex ratio and skewed breeding success, contributed to high levels of inbreeding and loss of genetic diversity. Of the 10–58 individuals released, 4–25 genetic founders contributed at least one living descendent and yielded approximately 3–11 founder–genome equivalents (number of genetic founders assuming an equal contribution of offspring and no random loss of alleles across generations) after seven breeding seasons. This range is much lower than the 20 founder–genome equivalents recommended for captive-bred populations. Although the level of inbreeding in one reintroduced population initially reached three times that of a closely related species, the long-term estimated rate of inbreeding of this one population was approximately one-third that of the other species due to differences in carrying capacities of the respective reintroduction sites. The increasing number of reintroductions to suitable areas that are smaller than those I examined here suggests that it might be useful to develop long-term strategies and guidelines for reintroduction programs, which would minimize inbreeding and maintain genetic diversity.

-Directly copied from Jamieson  2011

Submitter

Alison N Hale

University of Pittsburgh

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