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PLOS ONE  2006 

Selection for Heterozygosity Gives Hope to a Wild Population of Inbred Wolves

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0000072

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Abstract:

Recent analyses have questioned the usefulness of heterozygosity estimates as measures of the inbreeding coefficient (f), a finding that may have dramatic consequences for the management of endangered populations. We confirm that f and heterozygosity is poorly correlated in a wild and highly inbred wolf population. Yet, our data show that for each level of f, it was the most heterozygous wolves that established themselves as breeders, a selection process that seems to have decelerated the loss of heterozygosity in the population despite a steady increase of f. The markers contributing to the positive relationship between heterozygosity and breeding success were found to be located on different chromosomes, but there was a substantial amount of linkage disequilibrium in the population, indicating that the markers are reflecting heterozygosity over relatively wide genomic regions. Following our results we recommend that management programs of endangered populations include estimates of both f and heterozygosity, as they may contribute with complementary information about population viability.

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