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, 7 (5), e37181

Inbreeding Avoidance Influences the Viability of Reintroduced Populations of African Wild Dogs (Lycaon Pictus)


Inbreeding Avoidance Influences the Viability of Reintroduced Populations of African Wild Dogs (Lycaon Pictus)

Penny A Becker et al. PLoS One.


The conservation of many fragmented and small populations of endangered African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) relies on understanding the natural processes affecting genetic diversity, demographics, and future viability. We used extensive behavioural, life-history, and genetic data from reintroduced African wild dogs in South Africa to (1) test for inbreeding avoidance via mate selection and (2) model the potential consequences of avoidance on population persistence. Results suggested that wild dogs avoided mating with kin. Inbreeding was rare in natal packs, after reproductive vacancies, and between sibling cohorts (observed on 0.8%, 12.5%, and 3.8% of occasions, respectively). Only one of the six (16.7%) breeding pairs confirmed as third-order (or closer) kin consisted of animals that were familiar with each other, while no other paired individuals had any prior association. Computer-simulated populations allowed to experience inbreeding had only a 1.6% probability of extinction within 100 years, whereas all populations avoiding incestuous matings became extinct due to the absence of unrelated mates. Populations that avoided mating with first-order relatives became extinct after 63 years compared with persistence of 37 and 19 years for those also prevented from second-order and third-order matings, respectively. Although stronger inbreeding avoidance maintains significantly more genetic variation, our results demonstrate the potentially severe demographic impacts of reduced numbers of suitable mates on the future viability of small, isolated wild dog populations. The rapid rate of population decline suggests that extinction may occur before inbreeding depression is observed.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have read the journal's policy and have the following conflicts: Funding for this study was provided by the following commercial sources: Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund, Knowsley Safari Park, Khaki Fever Work Wear, and Rotterdam Zoo Thandiza Fund. This does not alter the authors' adherence to all the PLoS ONE policies on sharing data and materials.


Figure 1
Figure 1. Relatedness comparisons with kinship levels.
Mean pairwise relatedness (r) for different relationships in the KZN wild dog population with numbers of dyads examined for each category indicated.
Figure 2
Figure 2. Projections with and without avoidance.
Mean projected population size (a) and mean inbreeding coefficients (b) of simulated African wild dog populations over 100 years without inbreeding avoidance behaviours, with prevention of parent-offspring and full-sibling matings (F = 0.20), with prevention of half-sibling matings and higher (F = 0.123), and with prevention of aunt-nephew/uncle-niece matings and higher (F = 0.063). Dotted horizontal lines in (b) indicate inbreeding thresholds. The erratic behavior of mean inbreeding coefficients just before extinction is the result of very small population sizes that lead to unusual mean values near F = 1.0.
Figure 3
Figure 3. Population composition with avoidance.
Average number of adult male, adult female and juvenile wild dogs in simulated populations maintaining an inbreeding threshold of F = 0.20.
Figure 4
Figure 4. Carrying capacity determines persistence.
Average projected size of simulated wild dog populations over 100 years with the carrying capacity parameter set at varying levels in relation to initial population size. Model assumes an inbreeding avoidance threshold of F = 0.20.

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