Breeding and Genetic Management of Captive Marsupial Populations

  • Emily J. Miller
  • Catherine A. HerbertEmail author


Numerous marsupial species are held in captive breeding colonies throughout the world for the purposes of research, conservation and education. Research colonies have facilitated the development of model marsupial species, including the tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii), grey short-tailed opossum (Monodelphis domestica) and fat-tailed dunnart (Sminthopsis crassicaudata), the former two of which have been the subject of extensive genome sequencing projects. These species have played a fundamental role in improving our knowledge of marsupial biology, and much of this knowledge now contributes to the conservation and management of other species. Captive breeding programs have become an integral component of species recovery plans as an increasing number of marsupial species become threatened with extinction in the wild, and display colonies also play an important role in conservation education. Genetics has become an intrinsic component of conservation biology, and an instrumental tool in the management of captive populations. All captive colonies need to be actively managed to maximise the retention of extant genetic diversity, minimise levels of inbreeding and avoid genetic bottlenecks, adaptation to captivity and unwanted introgression, all of which can reduce the fitness of individuals and the evolutionary potential of the population. Successful breeding and genetic management of captive marsupial populations requires a thorough understanding of the reproductive and life history traits of the species. This chapter explores the extent to which these traits influence the retention of genetic diversity in relation to extrinsic factors associated with colony management.


Captive breeding Conservation Genetic diversity Inbreeding Mating system 



Chorioallantoic placenta

an enveloping vascular fetal membrane formed by the fusion of chorion and allantois.

Corpus luteum

is a temporary structure in mammals that develops from the ruptured ovarian follicle after ovulation and is involved in the production of progesterone.

Follicular phase

phase of the oestrous cycle during which follicles in the ovary mature, secreting increasing amounts of oestradiol as maturation progresses.

Luteal phase

the latter phase of the oestrous cycle when the corpus luteum is actively producing progesterone.


animals display one oestrous cycle within a breeding season.


ovulation of a single ovum.


animals display multiple oestrous cycles within a breeding season.


ovulation of more than one ovum during oestrus.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Veterinary ScienceThe University of SydneyCamperdownAustralia

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