Getting off to a good start? Genetic evaluation of the ex situ conservation project of the Critically Endangered Montseny brook newt (Calotriton arnoldi)

Emilio Valbuena-Ureña, Anna Soler-Membrives, Sebastian Steinfartz, Mònica Alonso, Francesc Carbonell, Raquel Larios-Martín, Elena Obon, Salvador Carranza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


© 2017 Valbuena-Ureña et al. Ex situ management strategies play an important role in the conservation of threatened species when the wild survival of the species cannot be ensured. Molecular markers have become an outstanding tool for the evaluation and management of captive breeding programs. Two main genetic objectives should be prioritized when planning breeding programs: the maintenance of maximum neutral genetic diversity, and to obtain ``selfsustaining'' captive populations. In this study, we use 24 microsatellite loci to analyze and evaluate the genetic representativity of the initial phases of the captive breeding program of the Montseny brook newt, Calotriton arnoldi, an Iberian endemic listed as Critically Endangered. The results show that the initial captive stock has 74-78% of the alleles present in the wild populations, and captures roughly 93-95% of their total genetic diversity as observed in a previous study on wild newts, although it does not reach the desired 97.5%. Moreover, the percentage of unrelatedness among individuals does not exceed 95%. Therefore, we conclude that the genetic diversity of the captive stock should be improved by incorporating genetic material from unrelated wild newts. In recognition of the previously described significant genetic and morphological differentiation between eastern and western wild populations of C. arnoldi, we suggest maintaining two distinct breeding lines, and we do not recommend outbreeding between these lines. Our comparisons of genetic diversity estimates between real and distinct sample-sized simulated populations corroborated that a minimum of 20 individuals are needed for each captive population, in order to match the level of genetic diversity present in the wild populations. Thus, the current initial stock should be reinforced by adding wild specimens. The captive stock and subsequent cohorts should be monitored in order to preserve genetic variation. In order to avoid genetic adaptation to captivity, occasionally incorporating previously genotyped individuals from the wild into the captive populations is recommended.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e3447
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • Calotriton arnoldi
  • Captive breeding program
  • Captive populations
  • Conservation
  • Critically endangered
  • Ex situ
  • Genetic diversity
  • Genetic monitoring
  • Microsatellite loci
  • Montseny brook newt


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