Genetic management of captive populations: the advantages of circular mating
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- Theodorou, K. & Couvet, D. Conserv Genet (2010) 11: 2289. doi:10.1007/s10592-010-0114-8
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We performed computer simulations to evaluate the effectiveness of circular mating as a genetic management option for captive populations. As a benchmark, we used the method proposed by Fernández and Caballero according to which parental contributions are set to produce minimum coancestry among the offspring and matings are performed so as to minimize mean pairwise coancestry (referred to as the Gc/mc method). In contrast to other methods, fitness does not vary with population size in the case of circular mating, and can be higher than under random mating. Whether circular mating is an effective method in conserving captive populations depends on the trade-off between different considerations. On the one hand, circular mating shows the highest allelic diversity and the lowest mean pairwise coancestry for all population sizes. It also shows a relatively higher efficiency of purging deleterious alleles. More importantly, circular mating can significantly increase the success probability of populations released to the wild relative to the Gc/mc method. On the other hand, circular mating has the drawback of showing high inbreeding rates and low fitness in early generations, which can result to an increase in the extinction probability of the captive populations. However, this increase is slight unless population size and litter size are both very low. Overall, if the slight increase in extinction probability can be tolerated then circular mating fulfils the primary goals of a captive breeding program, i.e., it maintains high levels of genetic diversity and increases the success probability of reintroduced populations.