Researchers Develop a New Tool for Preventing Inbreeding in Conservation Programs

A team of scientists has developed a computer program that pairs endangered animals together for mating. The program, called SWINGER, uses DNA analysis to pair the most genetically diverse individuals. The findings may be used to improve captive breeding and conservation programs. The details are in a paper that was just published in the journal Molecular Ecology Resources.

Captive breeding programs are used to minimize the number of animals captured from the wild but even more importantly, they’re used in conservation programs. Threatened or endangered animal species can be bred in captivity and then released into the wild to boost the population. These programs generally aim to prevent inbreeding and genetic disorders. The problem is that animals that are assumed to be unrelated may in fact be genetically similar, weakening the population’s gene pool and increasing the number of inbred animals.

Researchers from Flinders University in Australia investigated possible ways to improve the way conservationists pair animals in breeding programs. The team developed a computer program called SWINGER. The program, which is open source and free to use, searches every possible breeding combination to find the best pairings. SWINGER uses genomic analysis and takes into account inbreeding, relatedness, and genetic disorders. By using SWINGER, animal breeders can maximize genetic diversity in their breeding groups. This technology may prove useful for zoos, aquariums, and conservationists. Currently, the team is using their computer program to help save a rare species of rainbowfish that is only found in a single river. So far, SWINGER shows a lot of promise in conservation biology.

The SWINGER computer program has been successful in pairing genetically diverse animals together for breeding. SWINGER minimizes the chance of inbreeding and genetic disorders. The user-friendly program can be used by any laboratory and has the potential to help conservationists preserve threatened and endangered species.

REFERENCE

Sandoval-Castillo et al. SWINGER: a user-friendly computer program to establish captive breeding groups that minimize relatedness without pedigree information. Molecular Ecology Resources (2016).

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