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Studying the genetic consequences of captive breeding through studbook analysis.
An important topic in conserving sustainable ex-situ breeding populations is minimising the loss of genetic diversity. Minimising mean kinship based on species-specific studbooks (and more specifically the included pedigree information) is one of the main instrument to attain this goal. Besides pedigree information, many studbooks hold extra information on the individual level (e.g. general life-history, weights and seizes, husbandry and veterinary records among others). The combination of pedigree data on the one hand and this additional information on the other hand results in unique databases to study evolutionary processes. Quantitative genetics, used to estimate the genetic architecture of specific phenotypic traits and predicting the evolutionary potential of these traits, has a long history in both wild and livestock breeding. However “Animal Models” (cf. mixed-effects models for quantitative genetic research) have only rarely been used within captive populations of wild animals. Yet they might be useful in assessing the preservation of additive genetic variance of traits of ecological relevance, evaluate heritability, unravel potential evolutionary responses to selection in captivity, and assess covariance between traits, among others. Conservation breeding programmes might benefit from such analysis, in that heritable changes, in reproductive traits for example, can have direct consequences on the success of specific breeding programmes and moreover might influence future reintroduction success. However the use of these models remains to be tested. Apart from evaluating the heritable basis for many traits, we therefore started a pilot project that envisages to test the use of these models in captive breeding settings On the other hand, captive breeding programmes hold valuable information on the role of inbreeding depression. It has been argued that within wild populations demographic and environmental stochasticity will drive small population to extinction even before genetic factors come into play. However the most pressing deficiency in this debate comes with the lack of sufficient knowledge on the impact of inbreeding on the whole lifecycle in the wild. Avoidance of inbreeding has always played a central role in breeding programmes, but inbreeding levels do increase over time as such, creating interesting opportunities to evaluate the role of inbreeding in easily accessible populations for which many parameters are already available.
Datum:1 jul 2012 → Heden