AboutZoos, Since 2008


Repro­duc­tive suc­cess of cap­tive breed­ing pro­grammes is not good enough!

pub­lished 24 March 2018 | mod­i­fied 30 May 2019

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.

Oryx dammah in San Diego Zoo Safaripark (photography & copyright MoosMood)

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.

The study analysed more than 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.

captive breeding meta analysisPhy­lo­ge­netic tree of 44 species included in the meta-​analyses. The tree was cre­ated using the ‘rotl’ pack­age in R. The total num­ber of com­par­isons between captive-​born and wild-​born ani­mals included for each species is given as (N).
Kather­ine A. Far­quhar­son, Car­olyn J. Hogg & Cather­ine E. Grue­ber, 2018. A meta-​analysis of birth-​origin effects on repro­duc­tion in diverse cap­tive envi­ron­ments, in Nature Communications.

More than 2,000 threat­ened species rely on suc­cess­ful repro­duc­tion through cap­tive breed­ing pro­grammes for con­ser­va­tion alone.

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)

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