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  1. The unprecedented rate of extinction calls for efficient use of genetics to help conserve biodiversity. Several recent genomic and simulation-based studies have argued that the field of conservation biology has placed too much focus on conserving genome-wide genetic variation, and that the field should instead focus on managing the subset of functional genetic variation that is thought to affect fitness. Here, we critically evaluate the feasibility and likely benefits of this approach in conservation. We find that population genetics theory and empirical results show that conserving genome-wide genetic variation is generally the best approach to prevent inbreeding depression and loss of adaptive potential from driving populations toward extinction. Focusing conservation efforts on presumably functional genetic variation will only be feasible occasionally, often misleading, and counterproductive when prioritized over genome-wide genetic variation. Given the increasing rate of habitat loss and other environmental changes, failure to recognize the detrimental effects of lost genome-wide genetic variation on long-term population viability will only worsen the biodiversity crisis.

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  2. Abstract

    Identification of genes underlying genomic signatures of natural selection is key to understanding adaptation to local conditions. We used targeted resequencing to identifySNPmarkers in 5321 candidate adaptive genes associated with known immunological, metabolic and growth functions in ovids and other ungulates. We selectively targeted 8161 exons in protein‐coding and nearby 5′ and 3′ untranslated regions of chosen candidate genes. Targeted sequences were taken from bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) exon capture data and directly from the domestic sheep genome (Ovis ariesv. 3; oviAri3). The bighorn sheep sequences used in the Dall's sheep (Ovis dalli dalli) exon capture aligned to 2350 genes on the oviAri3 genome with an average of 2 exons each. We developed a microfluidic qPCR‐basedSNPchip to genotype 476 Dall's sheep from locations across their range and test for patterns of selection. Using multiple corroborating approaches (lositanandbayescan), we detected 28SNPloci potentially under selection. We additionally identified candidate loci significantly associated with latitude, longitude, precipitation and temperature, suggesting local environmental adaptation. The three methods demonstrated consistent support for natural selection on nine genes with immune and disease‐regulating functions (e.g. Ovar‐DRA,APC,BATF2,MAGEB18), cell regulation signalling pathways (e.g.KRIT1,PI3K,ORRC3), and respiratory health (CYSLTR1). Characterizing adaptive allele distributions from novel genetic techniques will facilitate investigation of the influence of environmental variation on local adaptation of a northern alpine ungulate throughout its range. This research demonstrated the utility of exon capture for gene‐targetedSNPdiscovery and subsequentSNPchip genotyping using low‐quality samples in a nonmodel species.

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