Igår lyckades jag försvara min licentiatavhandling. /Mija

Breeding strategies based on conservation genetic principles need to be established to retain genetic diversity within species of small population size. Genetic variation is necessary for wild populations to maintain the ability to genetically adapt to environmental changes and for domestic populations to retain potential to change selection traits. For populations where the relationships between individuals are recorded in studbooks, conservation genetic strategies are typically based on statistical pedigree analysis. Traditionally, pedigree analysis for conservation management has focused on zoo populations of threatened wild animals, and available software have been developed in that context. For instance, Population Management x (PMx) is a free software for estimating genetic parameters including inbreeding, kinship, founder allele contribution and survival. PMx is an accessory program to the zoo studbook platform SPARKS and is not easily applied outside this platform. I wanted to apply conservation genetic approaches typically used for captive populations of threatened species to domestic and wild populations. Specifically, I wanted to use PMx for pedigree analysis of domestic dog and wild wolf pedigrees that were not available in the SPARKS format, and we therefore developed a converter program (mPed) for making pedigrees of any studbook format fitting the input requirements of PMx (Paper I). I then used mPed to modify 26 domestic dog (Canis familiaris) pedigrees (Paper II) and the pedigree of the Swedish wild wolf (Canis lupus) population (Paper III) to permit PMx conservation genetic analyses of these pedigrees. Paper II: Many dog breeds exhibit physical problems that affect individual dogs through life. A potential cause of these problems is inbreeding and loss of genetic variation that is known to reduce the viability of individuals. I investigated the possible correlation between inbreeding and health problems in dogs by comparing the conservation genetic status of dog breeds in Sweden classified as “healthy” and “unhealthy”. The classification was based on statistics on the extent of veterinary care obtained from Sweden’s four largest insurance companies for pets. We found extensive loss of genetic variation and moderate rates of inbreeding in all the 26 breeds examined, but no strong indication of a difference in these parameters between healthy and unhealthy breeds. Paper III: The wolf(Canis lupus) is classified as “Endangered” in Sweden. The present population descends from five individuals and is isolated and highly inbred, with individuals being on average more related than full siblings. Hunts have been used to reduce the population size to 210 and keep the population on this level. Using pedigree analysis we showed that continued hunting of the population will make it less likely to reach genetically based Favourable Conservation Status (FCS) criteria that are required by biodiversity legislation within the European Union. In this thesis I will that, when possible, pedigree analysis is a useful tool of evaluating conservation genetic strategies as well as predicting outcomes of such strategies.

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