skip to main content


Title: Reduction of genetic diversity in ‘Alalā (Hawaiian crow; Corvus hawaiiensis ) between the late 1800s and the late 1900s
Abstract

Genetic and genomic data are increasingly used to aid conservation management of endangered species by providing insights into evolutionary histories, factors associated with extinction risks, and potential for future adaptation. For the ‘Alalā, or Hawaiian crow (Corvus hawaiiensis), genetic concerns include negative correlations between inbreeding and hatching success. However, it is unclear if low genetic diversity and inbreeding depression are consequences of a historical population bottleneck, or if ‘Alalā had historically low genetic diversity that predated human influence, perhaps as a result of earlier declines or founding events. In this study, we applied a hybridization-based sequence capture to generate a genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) dataset for comparing historical specimens collected in the 1890s, when ‘Alalā were more numerous, to samples taken between 1973 and 1998, when ‘Alalā population densities were near the lowest documented levels in the wild, prior to all individuals being collected for captive rearing. We found low genome-wide diversity in both sample groups, however, the modern sample group (1973 to 1998 cohort) exhibited relatively fewer polymorphic alleles, a lower proportion of polymorphic loci, and lower observed heterozygosity, consistent with a population decline and potential bottleneck effects. These results combined with a current low population size highlight the importance of continued efforts by conservation managers to mitigate inbreeding and maintain founder representation to preserve what genetic diversity remains.

 
more » « less
NSF-PAR ID:
10489270
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
Oxford University Press
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Heredity
Volume:
115
Issue:
1
ISSN:
0022-1503
Format(s):
Medium: X Size: p. 32-44
Size(s):
["p. 32-44"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. INTRODUCTION The Anthropocene is marked by an accelerated loss of biodiversity, widespread population declines, and a global conservation crisis. Given limited resources for conservation intervention, an approach is needed to identify threatened species from among the thousands lacking adequate information for status assessments. Such prioritization for intervention could come from genome sequence data, as genomes contain information about demography, diversity, fitness, and adaptive potential. However, the relevance of genomic data for identifying at-risk species is uncertain, in part because genetic variation may reflect past events and life histories better than contemporary conservation status. RATIONALE The Zoonomia multispecies alignment presents an opportunity to systematically compare neutral and functional genomic diversity and their relationships to contemporary extinction risk across a large sample of diverse mammalian taxa. We surveyed 240 species spanning from the “Least Concern” to “Critically Endangered” categories, as published in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. Using a single genome for each species, we estimated historical effective population sizes ( N e ) and distributions of genome-wide heterozygosity. To estimate genetic load, we identified substitutions relative to reconstructed ancestral sequences, assuming that mutations at evolutionarily conserved sites and in protein-coding sequences, especially in genes essential for viability in mice, are predominantly deleterious. We examined relationships between the conservation status of species and metrics of heterozygosity, demography, and genetic load and used these data to train and test models to distinguish threatened from nonthreatened species. RESULTS Species with smaller historical N e are more likely to be categorized as at risk of extinction, suggesting that demography, even from periods more than 10,000 years in the past, may be informative of contemporary resilience. Species with smaller historical N e also carry proportionally higher burdens of weakly and moderately deleterious alleles, consistent with theoretical expectations of the long-term accumulation and fixation of genetic load under strong genetic drift. We found weak support for a causative link between fixed drift load and extinction risk; however, other types of genetic load not captured in our data, such as rare, highly deleterious alleles, may also play a role. Although ecological (e.g., physiological, life-history, and behavioral) variables were the best predictors of extinction risk, genomic variables nonrandomly distinguished threatened from nonthreatened species in regression and machine learning models. These results suggest that information encoded within even a single genome can provide a risk assessment in the absence of adequate ecological or population census data. CONCLUSION Our analysis highlights the potential for genomic data to rapidly and inexpensively gauge extinction risk by leveraging relationships between contemporary conservation status and genetic variation shaped by the long-term demographic history of species. As more resequencing data and additional reference genomes become available, estimates of genetic load, estimates of recent demographic history, and accuracy of predictive models will improve. We therefore echo calls for including genomic information in assessments of the conservation status of species. Genomic information can help predict extinction risk in diverse mammalian species. Across 240 mammals, species with smaller historical N e had lower genetic diversity, higher genetic load, and were more likely to be threatened with extinction. Genomic data were used to train models that predict whether a species is threatened, which can be valuable for assessing extinction risk in species lacking ecological or census data. [Animal silhouettes are from PhyloPic] 
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    As urbanization continues to increase, it is expected that two‐thirds of the human population will reside in cities by 2050. Urbanization fragments and degrades natural landscapes, threatening wildlife including economically important species such as bees. In this study, we employ whole genome sequencing to characterize the population genetics, metagenome and microbiome, and environmental stressors of a common wild bee,Ceratina calcarata. Population genomic analyses revealed the presence of low genetic diversity and elevated levels of inbreeding. Through analyses of isolation by distance, resistance, and environment across urban landscapes, we found that green spaces including shrubs and scrub were the most optimal pathways for bee dispersal, and conservation efforts should focus on preserving these land traits to maintain high connectivity across sites for wild bees. Metagenomic analyses revealed landscape sites exhibiting urban heat island effects, such as high temperatures and development but low precipitation and green space, had the highest taxa alpha diversity across all domains even when isolating for potential pathogens. Notably, the integration of population and metagenomic data showed that reduced connectivity in urban areas is not only correlated with lower relatedness among individuals but is also associated with increased pathogen diversity, exposing vulnerable urban bees to more pathogens. Overall, our combined population and metagenomic approach found significant environmental variation in bee microbiomes and nutritional resources even in the absence of genetic differentiation, as well as enabled the potential early detection of stressors to bee health.

     
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Urbanization is decreasing wildlife habitat and connectivity worldwide, including for apex predators, such as the puma (Puma concolor). Puma populations along California's central and southern coastal habitats have experienced rapid fragmentation from development, leading to calls for demographic and genetic management. To address urgent conservation genomic concerns, we used double‐digest restriction‐site associated DNA (ddRAD) sequencing to analyze 16,285 genome‐wide single‐nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from 401 pumas sampled broadly across the state. Our analyses indicated support for 4–10 geographically nested, broad‐ to fine‐scale genetic clusters. At the broadest scale, the four genetic clusters had high genetic diversity and exhibited low linkage disequilibrium, indicating that pumas have retained genomic diversity statewide. However, multiple lines of evidence indicated substructure, including 10 finer‐scale genetic clusters, some of which exhibited fixed alleles and linkage disequilibrium. Fragmented populations along the Southern Coast and Central Coast had particularly low genetic diversity and strong linkage disequilibrium, indicating genetic drift and close inbreeding. Our results demonstrate that genetically at risk populations are typically nested within a broader‐scale group of interconnected populations that collectively retain high genetic diversity and heterogenous fixations. Thus, extant variation at the broader scale has potential to restore diversity to local populations if management actions can enhance vital gene flow and recombine locally sequestered genetic diversity. These state‐ and genome‐wide results are critically important for science‐based conservation and management practices. Our nested population genomic analysis highlights the information that can be gained from population genomic studies aiming to provide guidance for the conservation of fragmented populations.

     
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Theory predicts that threatened species living in small populations will experience high levels of inbreeding that will increase their genetic load, but recent work suggests that the impact of load may be minimized by purging resulting from long‐term population bottlenecks. Empirical studies that examine this idea using genome‐wide estimates of inbreeding and genetic load in threatened species are limited. Here we use individual genome resequencing data to compare levels of inbreeding, levels of genetic load (estimated as mutation load) and population history in threatened Eastern massasauga rattlesnakes (Sistrurus catenatus), which exist in small isolated populations, and closely related yet outbred Western massasauga rattlesnakes (Sistrurus tergeminus). In terms of inbreeding,Scatenatusgenomes had a greater number of runs of homozygosity of varying sizes, indicating sustained inbreeding through repeated bottlenecks when compared toStergeminus. At the species level, outbredStergeminushad higher genome‐wide levels of mutation load in the form of greater numbers of derived deleterious mutations compared toScatenatus, presumably due to long‐term purging of deleterious mutations inScatenatus. In contrast, mutations that escaped species‐level drift effects withinScatenatuspopulations were in general more frequent and more often found in homozygous genotypes than inStergeminus, suggesting a reduced efficiency of purifying selection in smallerScatenatuspopulations for most mutations. Our results support an emerging idea that the historical demography of a threatened species has a significant impact on the type of genetic load present, which impacts implementation of conservation actions such as genetic rescue.

     
    more » « less
  5. Abstract  
    more » « less