Effective population sizes and adaptive genetic variation in a captive bird population. Academic Article uri icon


  • Captive populations are considered a key component of ex situ conservation programs. Research on multiple taxa has shown the differential success of maintaining demographic versus genetic stability and viability in captive populations. In typical captive populations, usually founded by few or related individuals, genetic diversity can be lost and inbreeding can accumulate rapidly, calling into question their ultimate utility for release into the wild. Furthermore, domestication selection for survival in captive conditions is another concern. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the dynamics of population sizes, particularly the effective population size, and genetic diversity at non-neutral and adaptive loci in captive populations. In this study, we assessed effective population sizes and genetic variation at both neutral microsatellite markers, as well as SNP variants from the MHC-B locus of a captive Red Junglefowl population. This population represents a rare instance of a population with a well-documented history in captivity, following a realistic scenario of chain-of-custody, unlike many captive lab populations. Our analyses, which included 27 individuals comprising the entirety of one captive population show very low neutral and adaptive genetic variation, as well as low effective sizes, which correspond with the known demographic history. Finally, our study also shows the divergent impacts of small effective size and inbreeding in captive populations on microsatellite versus adaptive genetic variation in the MHC-B locus. Our study provides insights into the difficulties of maintaining adaptive genetic variation in small captive populations.

published proceedings

  • PeerJ

altmetric score

  • 4.2

author list (cited authors)

  • Athrey, G., Faust, N., Hieke, A., & Brisbin, I. L.

citation count

  • 8

complete list of authors

  • Athrey, Giridhar||Faust, Nikolas||Hieke, Anne-Sophie Charlotte||Brisbin, I Lehr

publication date

  • October 2018


published in