Molecular genetic analysis of a captive-breeding program: the vulnerable endemic Jamaican yellow boa

  • publication
  • 01-02-2009

Athanasia C. TzikaChristophe RemyRichard GibsonMichel C. Milinkovitch. Conservation Genetics, 10 (1):69-77.

The endemic Jamaican boa (or “yellow boa”, Epicrates subflavus) is a vulnerable species of the Caribbean biodiversity hotspot whose natural populations greatly declined mainly due to predation by introduced species, human persecution, and habitat destruction. A captive breeding program was initiated in 1976 and rationalized in 2002 by the establishment of a European Endangered Species Program. During the last 30 years, more than 600 offspring, of which 80 are still alive today, have been produced and distributed among European host institutions and privates. Here, using nine nuclear microsatellite loci and a fragment of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene, we (i) determine the natural population from which the founders originate, (ii) identify parental allocation errors and ambiguities in the studbook, and (iii) assess the genetic diversity and estimate levels of inbreeding of the current captive population based on loss of alleles, variance in reproductive success, and relatedness among individuals. Combining measures of relatedness derived from multilocus genotypes with practical parameters such as age of animals and localization of host institutions, we propose mating groups that would maximize genetic diversity in the captive population of the Jamaican boa. Our analyses provide guidance for a more efficient breeding program that, in turn, could be used as the starting point of a repatriation program to increase the probability of the species long-term survival.

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