Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
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Sensitive males: inbreeding depression in an endangered bird

Patricia Brekke

Patricia Brekke

Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regents Park, London NW1 4RY, UK

NERC Biomolecular Analysis Facility, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK

[email protected]

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Peter M. Bennett

Peter M. Bennett

Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NR, UK

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Jinliang Wang

Jinliang Wang

Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regents Park, London NW1 4RY, UK

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Nathalie Pettorelli

Nathalie Pettorelli

Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regents Park, London NW1 4RY, UK

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John G. Ewen

John G. Ewen

Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regents Park, London NW1 4RY, UK

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    Attempts to conserve threatened species by establishing new populations via reintroduction are controversial. Theory predicts that genetic bottlenecks result in increased mating between relatives and inbreeding depression. However, few studies of wild sourced reintroductions have carefully examined these genetic consequences. Our study assesses inbreeding and inbreeding depression in a free-living reintroduced population of an endangered New Zealand bird, the hihi (Notiomystis cincta). Using molecular sexing and marker-based inbreeding coefficients estimated from 19 autosomal microsatellite loci, we show that (i) inbreeding depresses offspring survival, (ii) male embryos are more inbred on average than female embryos, (iii) the effect of inbreeding depression is male-biased and (iv) this population has a substantial genetic load. Male susceptibility to inbreeding during embryo and nestling development may be due to size dimorphism, resulting in faster growth rates and more stressful development for male embryos and nestlings compared with females. This work highlights the effects of inbreeding at early life-history stages and the repercussions for the long-term population viability of threatened species.

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