Conservation Genetics

, Volume 6, Issue 6, pp 905–916 | Cite as

Effects of a recent founding event and intrinsic population dynamics on genetic diversity in an ungulate population

  • Gregory A. Wilson
  • John S. Nishi
  • Brett T. Elkin
  • Curtis Strobeck


Maintenance of genetic diversity has recently become a management goal for a number of species, due to its importance for present and future population viability. Genetic drift, primarily through differential reproductive success and inbreeding, can accelerate the loss of genetic diversity in recently recovered populations. We attempt to quantify the consequences of these factors on the genetic diversity contained in a small, recently founded wood bison (Bison bison athabascae) population by examining the genetic variation in this conservation herd, the calves born therein, and its large source population. The Hook Lake Wood Bison Recovery Project was initiated to found a disease-free herd of wood bison containing a representative amount of the genetic diversity present in the Wood Buffalo National Park metapopulation. Levels of diversity in the Hook Lake Wood Bison Recovery Project founders are higher than in previous salvage attempts. To examine the effects of differential reproductive success on this population, we monitored parentage of the calves born in the Hook Lake Wood Bison Recovery Project for 3 years since the founders reached sexual maturity. Two of the male founders sired over 90% of the offspring born in this population, which has led to a reduction in diversity in their calves. Monitoring of reproductive success, and incorporation of selective breeding strategies will be required to reduce the rate at which genetic diversity is lost from this small, isolated population. These steps should occur in other recovery projects, particularly when a small number of individuals are capable of dominating reproduction.

Key words:

bottleneck diversity founding event genetic drift reproductive success 


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The Government of the Northwest Territories provided operational costs for the HLWBRP. The project was co-managed with the Deninu Kue First Nation and the Aboriginal Wildlife Harvesters Committee, Fort Resolution, NT. G.W.’s postgraduate scholarship and postdoctoral fellowship were provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). Funding was provided by NSERC and Parks Canada grants to C.S. Part of this research was supported by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health grant HG01988 to Bruce Rannala, and National Institutes of Health grant R01-GM40282 to Montgomery Slatkin. Special thanks to T.R. Ellsworth, S. Cuthbert, S. Beck, K. Delorme, R.␣Sayine Jr., L. Jones, and B. Bailey for contributions to field operations and/or program administration. D. Beaulieu, D. Balsillie, R. Boucher, C.C. Gates, and T. Unka were instrumental in initial project development, consultation, and implementation. We especially thank the National Wood Bison Recovery Team and countless volunteers for their support and field assistance. We thank all reviewers for their helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gregory A. Wilson
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • John S. Nishi
    • 4
  • Brett T. Elkin
    • 5
  • Curtis Strobeck
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Department of Integrative BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA
  3. 3.Department of Medical GeneticsUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  4. 4.Department of Environment and Natural ResourcesGovernment of the Northwest TerritoriesFort SmithCanada
  5. 5.Department of Environment and Natural ResourcesGovernment of the Northwest TerritoriesYellowknifeCanada
  6. 6.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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