The wild ancestors of domestic animals as a neglected and threatened component of biodiversity

  • publication
  • 20-01-2022

Smith WJ, Quilodrán CS, Jezierski MT, Sendell-Price AT, Clegg SM. Conserv Biol. 2022 Jun;36(3):e13867. doi: 10.1111/cobi.13867

Domestic animals have immense economic, cultural, and practical value and have played pivotal roles in the development of human civilization. Many domesticates have, among their wild relatives, undomesticated forms representative of their ancestors. Resurgent interest in these ancestral forms has highlighted the unclear genetic status of many, and some are threatened with extinction by hybridization with domestic conspecifics. We considered the contemporary status of these ancestral forms relative to their scientific, practical, and ecological importance; the varied impacts of wild-domestic hybridization; and the challenges and potential resolutions involved in conservation efforts. Identifying and conserving ancestral forms, particularly with respect to disentangling patterns of gene flow from domesticates, is complex because of the lack of available genomic and phenotypic baselines. Comparative behavioral, ecological, and genetic studies of ancestral-type, feral, and domestic animals should be prioritized to establish the contemporary status of the former. Such baseline information will be fundamental in ensuring successful conservation efforts.

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