Stochastic modelling of shifts in allele frequencies reveals a strongly polygynous mating system in the re-introduced Asiatic wild ass

Sharon Renan, Gili Greenbaum, Naama Shahar, Alan R. Templeton, Amos Bouskila, Shirli Bar-David

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Small populations are prone to loss of genetic variation and hence to a reduction in their evolutionary potential. Therefore, studying the mating system of small populations and its potential effects on genetic drift and genetic diversity is of high importance for their viability assessments. The traditional method for studying genetic mating systems is paternity analysis. Yet, as small populations are often rare and elusive, the genetic data required for paternity analysis are frequently unavailable. The endangered Asiatic wild ass (Equus hemionus), like all equids, displays a behaviourally polygynous mating system; however, the level of polygyny has never been measured genetically in wild equids. Combining noninvasive genetic data with stochastic modelling of shifts in allele frequencies, we developed an alternative approach to paternity analysis for studying the genetic mating system of the re-introduced Asiatic wild ass in the Negev Desert, Israel. We compared the shifts in allele frequencies (as a measure of genetic drift) that have occurred in the wild ass population since re-introduction onset to simulated scenarios under different proportions of mating males. We revealed a strongly polygynous mating system in which less than 25% of all males participate in the mating process each generation. This strongly polygynous mating system and its potential effect on the re-introduced population's genetic diversity could have significant consequences for the long-term persistence of the population in the Negev. The stochastic modelling approach and the use of allele-frequency shifts can be further applied to systems that are affected by genetic drift and for which genetic data are limited.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1433-1446
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular Ecology
Volume24
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Keywords

  • Equus hemionus
  • allele-frequency shifts
  • conservation genetics
  • elusive species
  • genetic drift
  • paternity analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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