Inbreeding depression in ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta): Genetic diversity predicts parasitism, immunocompetence, and survivorship
The consequences of inbreeding have been well studied in a variety of taxa, revealing that inbreeding has major negative impacts in numerous species, both in captivity and in the wild; however, as trans-generational health data are difficult to obtain for long-lived, free-ranging species, similar analyses are generally lacking for nonhuman primates. Here, we examined the long-term effects of inbreeding on numerous health estimates in a captive colony of ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta), housed under semi-natural conditions. This vulnerable strepsirrhine primate is endemic to Madagascar, a threatened hotspot of biodiversity; consequently, this captive population represents an important surrogate. Despite significant attention to maintaining the genetic diversity of captive animals, breeding colonies invariably suffer from various degrees of inbreeding. We used neutral heterozygosity as an estimate of inbreeding and showed that our results reflect genome-wide inbreeding, rather than local genetic effects. In particular, we found that genetic diversity affects several fitness correlates, including the prevalence and burden of Cuterebra parasites and a third (N = 6) of the blood parameters analyzed, some of which reflect immunocompetence. As a final validation of inbreeding depression in this captive colony, we showed that, compared to outbred individuals, inbred lemurs were more likely to die earlier from diseases. Through these analyses, we highlight the importance of monitoring genetic variation in captive animals-a key objective for conservation geneticists-and provide insight into the potential negative consequences faced by small or isolated populations in the wild. © 2008 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
Charpentier, MJE; Williams, CV; Drea, CM
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