A group of researchers based at the University of Sydney has uncovered patterns that may be jeopardising the long-term success of worldwide animal breeding programmes, which increasingly act as an insurance against extinction in conservation, and for food security.
The meta-analysis the researchers performed, and led by the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Science, found captive-born animals had, on average, 42 percent decreased odds of reproductive success compared to their wild-born counterparts in captivity. In aquaculture, the effects were particularly pronounced, although research and conservation programs showed the same trend.
100 results, from 39 animal studies of 44 diverse species including shrimp, fish, mice, ducks, lemurs and Tasmanian devils. The findings are published online on 13 March in Nature Communications.analysed more than
Dr Catherine Grueber, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, the University of Sydney, Australia, and San Diego Zoo Global, USA.
Dr Grueber, who supervised the study, said the team was surprised at how universal the patterns were. “In order to maintain our food supply, it’s crucial we improve captive breeding; for example, the aquaculture industry is looking at introducing new species for commercialisation,” Grueber added.
Lead author, PhD student Ms Kate Farquharson, said the results provide opportunities for improving the long-term success of animal breeding programmes. “Our dataset included measurements of lots of different reproductive traits — such as fertility, number of offspring, and timing of reproduction — but found that certain traits, such as offspring weight and mothering ability, seem to be the most strongly affected,” Ms Farquharson said. “This provides an opportunity for animal breeding programmes, by identifying the areas where improvement could boost sustainability.”
Research manager at the University of Sydney’s Australasian Wildlife Genomics Group, co-author Dr Carolyn Hogg, said the research could be extended by undertaking multi-generational studies. “Identifying limitations as well as opportunities in captive breeding programmes across all industries is an urgent priority,” Dr Hogg said.
(Source: University of Sydney news release, 13.03.2018)