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Data from: Small N e of the isolated and unmanaged horse population on Sable Island

Cite this dataset

Uzans, Andrea J.; Lucas, Zoe; McLeod, Brenna A.; Frasier, Timothy R. (2015). Data from: Small N e of the isolated and unmanaged horse population on Sable Island [Dataset]. Dryad.


For small, isolated populations 2 common conservation concerns relate to genetic threats: inbreeding and negative consequences associated with loss of genetic diversity due to drift. Mitigating these threats often involves conservation actions that can be controversial, such as translocations or captive breeding programs. Although such actions have been successful in some situations, in others they have had undesirable outcomes. Here, we estimated the effective population size (N e) of the Sable Island horses to assess the risk to this population of these genetic threats. We found surprising consistency of N e estimates across the 5 different methods used, with a mean of 48 effective individuals. This estimate falls below the 50 criterion of the “50/500 rule,” below which inbreeding depression is a concern for population viability. However, simulations and knowledge of population history indicate that this population is still in its early stages of approaching equilibrium between mutation, drift, and genetic diversity; and no negative consequences have been identified that could be associated with inbreeding depression. Therefore, we do not recommend taking management action (such as translocations) at this stage. Rather, we propose continued monitoring of genetic diversity and fitness over time so that trends and any substantial changes can be detected. This represents one of the few unmanaged horse populations in the world, and therefore these data will not only alert us to serious concerns regarding their conservation status, but will also provide a wealth of information about how natural processes drive patterns of reproduction, mortality, and population growth over time.

Usage notes


Sable Island