Selection in captive populations

R. Frankham*, H. Hemmer, O. A. Ryder, E. G. Cothran, M. E. Soulé, N. D. Murray, M. Snyder

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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    We have briefly reviewed types of genetic variation and selection in the wild as contrasted with selection in captive populations, along with the objectives of captive breeding programs, before recommending selection procedures for the genetic management of captive populations. Although some inadvertent selection for tameness and adaptation to captive environments is inevitable in captive populations, any selection that is actively applied to captive populations should have clearly defined objectives. Much of the apparent disagreement about genetic management of captive populations probably stems from the varying objectives of different captive breeding programs. Objectives differ depending on whether the populations are: (1) common species for display, (2) endangered species for long‐term conservation, (3) rare species being multiplied for immediate release back into the wild, or (4) rare species not yet capable of self‐sustaining reproduction in captivity. For all categories of populations we recommend selection to keep the genetic load under control. Populations in category 1 can be selected for adaptation to captive breeding, ease of handling, and for classic species phenotype. Populations in categories 2 and 3 should have no deliberate selection applied to them, apart from that to control the genetic load, so that the probability of successful release back into the wild is maximized. Populations in category 4 may require selection for captive breeding success until they attain self‐sustaining status. Once this has been achieved they should be managed as under category 2. The special cases of species that have been subjected to introgression are discussed. The multidisciplinary nature of captive population management is stressed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)127-138
    Number of pages12
    JournalZoo Biology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1986


    • conservation
    • genetic load
    • genetic management
    • inadvertent selection
    • introgression


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