Desert Bighorn Sheep: Changes in Genetic Variation Over Time and the Impact of Merging Populations

Document
Description

Founder effects, genetic bottlenecks, and genetic drift in general can lead to low levels of genetic diversity, which can influence the persistence of populations. We examine genetic variation in two

Founder effects, genetic bottlenecks, and genetic drift in general can lead to low levels of genetic diversity, which can influence the persistence of populations. We examine genetic variation in two populations of desert bighorn sheep Ovis canadensis from New Mexico and Mexico to measure change over time and evaluate the impact of introducing individuals from one population into the other. Over about three generations, the amount of genetic variation in the New Mexico population increased. In contrast, over about two generations the amount of genetic variation in the Mexican population decreased by a great extent compared with an estimate from another Mexican population from which it is primarily descended. The potential reasons for these changes are discussed. In addition, although both populations have low genetic variation, introduction of Mexican rams into the New Mexico population might increase the amount of genetic variation in the New Mexico population. Overall, it appears that management to increase genetic variation might require substantial detailed monitoring and evaluation of ancestry from the different sources and fitness components.