Supportive release from a zoo population by cross-fostering can significantly increase genetic variation in the highly inbred wild Swedish wolf population
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
The wild wolf population (Canis lupus) in Sweden is classified as Endangered and descends from only five individuals. The population is isolated and highly inbred; individuals are on average more related to each other than siblings. Inbreeding depression expressed as reduced litter size and a high frequency of spinal disorders have been reported. Management goals include reducing levels of inbreeding, and one suggestion to achieve this is through crossfostering release of pups from a zoo conservation breeding program into wild dens. We used pedigree data of the wild and zoo populations, respectively, to evaluate to what extent the zoo population can support the wild one with respect to increased genetic variation and reduction of inbreeding. The results show a potential to almost double genetic variation measured as founder alleles from 11.2 to 21.1, despite the fact that the two populations have three common founders. Potentially, the number of founder genome equivalents can be increased from present 1.8 to around 3.2. However, to achieve maximum genetic support, almost 50 percent of the wild population gene pool must consist of genes from the zoo population. Average kinship in the joint population of zoo and wild wolves is 0.15, thus release of zoo wolves cannot in itself be expected to reduce average inbreeding below the management target of 0.1. We conclude that releases from the zoo can support but not resolve the genetically precarious situation of the wild Swedish wolf population.
captive breeding, pedigree analysis, Swedish wolves, conservation policy, genetic rescue
Research subject Population Genetics
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-100602OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-100602DiVA: diva2:694838