Introduction of captive breeders to the wild: Harmful or beneficial?


This work focuses on the consequences on thegenetic load and the risk of extinction when anendangered population is exposed to recurrentintroductions from a captive population whereselection is somewhat relaxed. Our findingssuggest that, although selection pressuresmight be reduced in captivity, which leads tohigher frequency of deleterious alleles innatural populations (Lynch and O'Hely 2001),such a population structure could have positiveeffects on population fitness when threeconditions are met: (i) the time length of thesupplementation program does not exceed areasonable time frame, e.g., 20 generations (ii)introduction of captive individuals is kept ata low level, i.e., one or two individuals pergeneration (iii) the size of the captivepopulation is reasonably large, e.g., more than20 individuals. The positive effect is due tothe fact that the supplementation programdelays the increase of homozygosity of thenatural population. When migration from thewild towards captivity is also allowed, thebenefits with regard to genetic load increasesignificantly even for larger numbers ofcaptive immigrants and a higher number ofgenerations. We also worked out a model withexplicit demographic considerations(fluctuating population sizes, captive migrantsincrease the size of the wild population),which shows that the probability of extinctiondecreases significantly with the number ofintroduced individuals when short-termsupplementation programs are applied (up totwenty generations). Furthermore, anappropriate genetic management of the captivepopulation, such as the equalization of familysizes, could enhance the positive effects ofsuch supplementation programs.

DOI: 10.1023/B:COGE.0000014052.60145.f9

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@article{Theodorou2004IntroductionOC, title={Introduction of captive breeders to the wild: Harmful or beneficial?}, author={K Theodorou and Denis Couvet}, journal={Conservation Genetics}, year={2004}, volume={5}, pages={1-12} }