Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Data from: Captive ancestry upwardly biases estimates of relative reproductive success


Willoughby, Janna R.; Christie, Mark R. (2017), Data from: Captive ancestry upwardly biases estimates of relative reproductive success, Dryad, Dataset,


Supplementation programs, which release captive-born individuals into the wild, are commonly used to demographically bolster declining populations. In order to evaluate the effectiveness of these programs, the reproductive success of captive-born individuals released into the wild is often compared to the reproductive success of wild-born individuals in the recipient population (relative reproductive success, RRS). However, if there are heritable reductions in fitness associated with captive breeding, gene flow from captive-born individuals into the wild population can reduce the fitness of the wild population. Here, we show that when captive ancestry in the wild population reduces mean population fitness, estimates of RRS are upwardly biased, meaning that the relative fitness of captive-born individuals is over-estimated. Furthermore, the magnitude of this bias increases with the length of time that a supplementation program has been releasing captive-born individuals. This phenomenon has long-term conservation impacts since management decisions regarding the design of a supplementation program and the number of individuals to release can be based, at least in part, on RRS estimates. Therefore, we urge caution in the interpretation of relative fitness measures when the captive ancestry of the wild population cannot be precisely measured.

Usage Notes