Managing Genetic Variation to Conserve Genetic Diversity in Goats and Sheep

Journal of Tekirdag Agricultural Faculty 01/2010;
Source: DOAJ

ABSTRACT Domestic goat and sheep populations maintained for many generations with small numbers of male and female parents, or declining in total numbers, not only endure accumulated genetic drift but also a steady rise in inbreeding, which can be directly attributed to dispersive forces of evolutionary significance that influence gene frequency. Increasing effective population size shows theoretical promise in lessening the impact on erosion of biodiversity from genetic drift. For example, doubling the effective numbers of parents which increases effective population size reduces rate of inbreeding by nearly one-half in many of the scenarios in the present study. Similarly, equalizing the number of male and female parents can decrease the variance among progeny of each parent, which in turn increases effective population size. The recurring erosion of domestic goat and sheep diversity has contributed to decreased fecundity, reduced fitness and poor adaptability, all known to influence efficiency of production. The potential loss in performance of livestock and poultry following many generations of accumulated genetic drift, which often goes unnoticed, can be predicted for specific populations from precise estimates of their mean value, additive genetic variance and heritability along with their effective number of male and female parents. For example, when the effective population size decreases from 200 to 40, the potential reduction in mean performance for economically important traits of goat and sheep populations following 20 generations of accumulated genetic drift will nearly double. In contrast, increasing effective population size from 200 to 600 will have the potential reduction in mean performance. The accumulation of favourable mutations could imply an effective population size of 100 or more, which is equal to a rise in rate of inbreeding of 0.5% or less, may be acceptable in sustaining genetic response to artificial selection in commercial breeding populations. The application of quantitative genetic principles related to inbreeding and genetic drift make it possible to safeguard against erosion of genetic diversity in endangered breeds, populations and landraces while lessening the impact from potential loss in their performance. Conservation of domestic animal diversity can be achieved by managing the erosion of genetic variation based on breeding strategies which promote the mating of sires to all dams, in either ‘random bred’ or ‘balanced pedigreed’ breeding structure for populations of endangered domestic goats and sheep. Obviously, the in-situ and ex-situ conservation of live animals, along with cryogenic preservation of their gametes, stem cells, somatic cells, blood and gonads will be complementary to conservation breeding.

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