The main goal of ex situ conservation programs is to improve the chances of long term survival of natural populations by founding and managing captive colonies that can serve as a source of individuals for future reintroductions or to reinforce existing populations. The degree in which a captive breeding program has captured the genetic diversity existing in the source wild population has seldom been evaluated. In this study we evaluate the genetic diversity in wild and captive populations of the Iberian wolf, Canis lupus signatus, in order to assess how much genetic diversity is being preserved in the ongoing ex situ conservation program for this subspecies. A sample of domestic dogs was also included in the analysis for comparison. Seventy-four wolves and 135 dogs were genotyped at 13 unlinked microsatellite loci. The results show that genetic diversity in Iberian wolves is comparable in magnitude to that of other wild populations of gray wolf. Both the wild and the captive Iberian wolf populations have a similarly high genetic diversity indicating that no substantial loss of diversity has occurred in the captive-breeding program. The effective number of founders of the program was estimated as ≈16, suggesting that all founders in the studbook pedigree were genetically independent. Our results emphasize also the genetic divergence between wolves and domestic dogs and indicate that our set of 13 microsatellite loci provide a powerful diagnostic test to distinguish wolves, dogs and their hybrids. © 2006 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.
- Captive breeding
- Genetic diversity