Conservation Genetics

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 191–201 | Cite as

Beyond the beneficial effects of translocations as an effective tool for the genetic restoration of isolated populations

  • Juan L. BouzatEmail author
  • Jeff A. Johnson
  • John E. Toepfer
  • Scott A. Simpson
  • Terry L. Esker
  • Ronald L. Westemeier
Research Article


Translocations are becoming increasingly popular as appropriate management strategies for the genetic restoration of endangered species and populations. Although a few studies have shown that the introduction of novel alleles has reversed the detrimental effects of inbreeding over the short-term (i.e., genetic rescue), it is not clear how effective such translocations are for both maintaining neutral variation that may be adaptive in the future (i.e., genetic restoration) and increasing population viability over the long-term. In addition, scientists have expressed concerns regarding the potential genetic swamping of locally adapted populations, which may eliminate significant components of genetic diversity through the replacement of the target population by the source individuals used for translocations. Here we show that bird translocations into a wild population of greater prairie-chickens (Tympanuchus cupido pinnatus) in southeastern Illinois were effective in both removing detrimental variation associated with inbreeding depression as well as restoring neutral genetic variation to historical levels. Furthermore, we found that although translocations resulted in immediate increases in fitness, the demographic recovery and long-term viability of the population appears to be limited by the availability of suitable habitat. Our results demonstrate that although translocations can be effective management tools for the genetic restoration of wild populations on the verge of extinction, their long-term viability may not be guaranteed unless the initial conditions that led to most species declines (e.g., habitat loss) are reversed.


Tympanuchus cupido Bottlenecks Genetic rescue Translocations 



We would like to thank Michael E. Soulé, L. Scott Mills, Phil Hedrick, Bob Wayne, Scott V. Edwards, and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on the manuscript, and Mike Morrow and Robert Gillespie for their assistance in trapping prairie-chickens for the 2003 Illinois sampling. We thank the following institutions for providing access to historical specimens for DNA analyses: American Museum of Natural History (New York, NY), Field Museum of Natural History (Chicago, IL), Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (Berkeley, CA), National Museum of Natural History (Washington, D.C.), University of Michigan Museum of Zoology (Ann Arbor, MI), University of Kansas Natural History Museum, Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates, University of Missouri-Columbia, Illinois Natural History Survey (Champaign, IL), and Texas A&M University. Logistical and financial support for this research has been provided by Bowling Green State University, University of Michigan, Society of Tympanuchus Cupido Pinnatus, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Illinois Department of Natural Resources-Division of Natural Heritage, The Nature Conservancy, and Illinois Natural History Survey.


  1. Arrenda J, Walker CW, Sundqvist A-K, Hellborg L, Vilà C (2004) Genetic evaluation of an otter translocation program. Conserv Genet 5:79–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beier P, Vaughan MR, Conroy MJ, Quigley H (2006) Evaluating scientific inferences about the Florida panther. J Wildl Manage 70:236–245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bellinger MR, Johnson JA, Dunn P (2003) Loss of genetic variation in Greater Prairie Chickens following a population bottleneck in Wisconsin, U.S.A. Conserv Biol 17:717–724CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Berger DD, Hamerstrom F, Hamerstrom FN (1962) The effects of raptors on prairie chickens on booming grounds. J Wildl Manage 27:778–791Google Scholar
  5. Bouzat JL, Lewin HA, Paige KN (1998a) The ghost of genetic diversity past: historical DNA analysis of the greater prairie chicken. Am Nat 152:1–6PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bouzat JL, Cheng HH, Lewin HA, Westemeier RL, Brawn J, Paige KN (1998b) Genetic evaluation of a demographic bottleneck in the greater prairie chicken. Conserv Biol 12:836–843CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Caughley G (1994) Directions in conservation biology. J Anim Ecol 63:215–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Clewell AF (2000) Restoring for natural authenticity. Ecol Restor 18:216–217Google Scholar
  9. Crandall KA, Bininda-Edmonds ORP, Mace GM, Wayne RK (2000) Considering evolutionary processes in conservation biology: an alternative to “evolutionary significant units”. Trends Ecol Evol 15:290–295PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Edmands S (2007) Between a rock and a hard place: evaluating the relative risks of inbreeding and outbreeding for conservation and management. Mol Ecol 16:463–475PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Excoffier L, Laval G, Schneider S (2005) Arlequin ver. 3.0: an integrated software package for population genetics data analysis. Evol Bioinform Online 1:47–50PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Frankham R, Ballou JD, Briscoe DA (2002) Introduction to conservation genetics. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  13. Goudet J (1995) FSTAT (version 1.2): a computer program to calculate F-statistics. J Heredity 86:485–486Google Scholar
  14. Hamerstrom FN Jr, Hamerstrom F (1973) The prairie chicken in Wisconsin-highlights of a 22-year study of counts, behavior, movements, turnover, and habitat. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Technical Bulletin No. 64, MadisonGoogle Scholar
  15. Hamerstrom FN Jr, Mattson OE, Hamerstrom F (1957) A guide to prairie chicken management. Wisconsin Conservation Department, Technical Wildlife Bulletin No. 15, MadisonGoogle Scholar
  16. Hamerstrom F, Berger DD, Hamerstrom FN (1964) The effects of mammals on prairie chickens on booming grounds. J Wildl Manage 29:536–542Google Scholar
  17. Hedrick PW (2000) Genetics of populations, 2nd edn. Johns and Bartlett Publishers, Inc., BostonGoogle Scholar
  18. Hedrick PW (2004) Recent developments in conservation genetics. For Ecol Manage 197:3–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hedrick PW (2005) ‘Genetic restoration:’ a more comprehensive perspective than ‘genetic rescue.’ Trends Ecol Evol 20:109PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hogg JT, Forbes SH, Steele BM, Luikart G (2006) Genetic rescue of an insular population of large mammals. Proc R Soc B 273:1491–1499PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hufford KM, Mazer SJ (2003) Plant ecotypes: genetic differentiation in the age of ecological restoration. Trends Ecol Evol 18:147–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Johnsgard PA (1983) The Grouse of the world. University of Nebraska Press, LincolnGoogle Scholar
  23. Johnson JA, Dunn PO (2006) Low genetic variation in the heath hen prior to extinction and implications for the conservation of prairie-chicken populations. Conserv Genet 7:37–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Johnson JA, Toepfer JE, Dunn PO (2003) Contrasting patterns of mitochondrial and microsatellite population structure in fragmented populations of greater prairie-chickens. Mol Ecol 12:3335–3348PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Johnson JA, Bellinger MR, Toepfer JE, Dunn PO (2004) Temporal changes in allele frequencies and low effective population size in greater prairie-chickens. Mol Ecol 13:2617–2630PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Johnson JA, Dunn PO, Bouzat JL (2007) Effects of recent population bottlenecks on reconstructing the demographic history of prairie-chickens. Mol Ecol 16:2203–2222PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lande R (1998) Genetics and demography in biological conservation. Science 241:1455–1460CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Madsen T, Shine R, Olsson M, Wittzell H (1999) Restoration of an inbred adder population. Nature 402:34–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Maher DS, Crowley P, Cox JJ, Lacki MJ, Larkin JL, Hoctor TS, Harris LD, Hall PM (2006) Of cats and Haruspices: genetic intervention in the Florida panther. Response to Pimm et al. (2006). Anim Conserv 9:127–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Nei M (1987) Molecular evolutionary genetics. Columbia University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  31. Newman D, Tallmon DA (2001) Experimental evidence for beneficial effects of gene flow in recently isolated populations. Conserv Biol 15:1054–1063CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Pimm SL, Doolar L, Bass OL Jr (2006) The genetic rescue of the Florida panther. Anim Conserv 9:115–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Pritchard JK, Stephens M, Donnelly P (2000) Inference of population structure using multilocus genotype data. Genetics 155:945–959PubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Rozas J, Sánchez-DelBarrio JC, Messeguer X, Rozas R (2003) DNA polymorphism analyses by the coalescent and other methods. Bioinformatics 19:2496–2497PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Saccheri I, Kuussaari M, Kankare M, Vikman P, Fortelius W, Hanski I (1998) Inbreeding and extinction in a butterfly metapopulation. Nature 392:491–494CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Soulé ME, Mills LS (1998) No need to isolate genetics. Science 282:1658–1659CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Svedarsky WD, Hier RH, Silvy NJ (1999) The greater prairie chicken a national look. University of Minnesota, Miscellaneous Publication 99, Saint PaulGoogle Scholar
  38. Swindell WR, Bouzat JL (2005) Modeling the adaptive potential of isolated populations: experimental simulations using Drosophila. Evolution 59:2159–2169PubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Swindell WR, Bouzat JL (2006) Gene flow and adaptive potential in Drosophila melanogaster. Conserv Genet 7:79–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Tajima F (1989) Statistical method for testing the neutral mutational hypothesis by DNA polymorphism. Genetics 123:585–595PubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Tallmon DA, Luikart G, Waples RS (2004) The alluring simplicity and complex reality of genetic rescue. Trends Ecol Evol 19:489–496PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Toepfer JE (2007) Status and management of the greater prairie-chicken in Wisconsin—2006. Passenger Pigeon 69:259–288Google Scholar
  43. Vance DR, Westemeier RL (1979) Interaction of pheasants and prairie chicken in Illinois. Wildl Soc Bull 7:221–225Google Scholar
  44. Vilà C, Sundqvist A-K, Flagstad Ø, Seddon J, Björnerfeldt S, Kojola I, Casulli A, Sand H, Wabakken P, Ellegren H (2003) Rescue of a severely bottlenecked wolf (Canis lupus) population by a single immigrant. Proc R Soc B 270:91–97PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Walk JW (2004) A plan for the recovery of the greater prairie-chicken in Illinois. Illinois Department of Natural Resources, SpringfieldGoogle Scholar
  46. Westemeier RL, Brawn JD, Simpson SA, Esker TL, Jansen RW, Walk JW, Kershner EL, Bouzat JL, Paige KN (1998a) Tracking the long-term decline and recovery of an isolated population. Science 282:1695–1698PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Westemeier RL, Buhnerkempe JE, Edwards WR, Brawn JD, Simpson SA (1998b) Parasitism of greater prairie-chicken nest by ring-necked pheasants. J Wildl Manage 62:854–863CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wisdom MJ, Mills LS (1997) Sensitivity analysis to guide population recovery: prairie-chickens as an example. J Wildl Manage 61:302–312CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Wisdom MJ, Mills LS, Doak DF (2000) Life stage simulation analysis: estimating vital-rate effects on population growth for conservation. Ecology 81:628–641CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Wisely SM, Santymire RM, Livieri TM, Mueting SA, Howard J (2007) Genotypic and phenotypic consequences of reintroduction history in the black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes). Conserv Genet. doi: 10.1007/s10592-007-9351-x

Copyright information

© US Government 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juan L. Bouzat
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jeff A. Johnson
    • 2
  • John E. Toepfer
    • 3
  • Scott A. Simpson
    • 4
  • Terry L. Esker
    • 4
  • Ronald L. Westemeier
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesBowling Green State UniversityBowling GreenUSA
  2. 2.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of Michigan Museum of ZoologyAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.Society of Tympanuchus Cupido PinnatusPloverUSA
  4. 4.Illinois Department of Natural ResourcesNewtonUSA
  5. 5.Illinois Natural History SurveyEffinghamUSA

Personalised recommendations