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Give and take: Effects of genetic admixture on mutation load in endangered Florida panthers


Ochoa, Alexander et al. (2022), Give and take: Effects of genetic admixture on mutation load in endangered Florida panthers, Dryad, Dataset,


Genetic admixture is a biological event inherent to genetic rescue programs aimed at the long-term conservation of endangered wildlife.  Although the success of such programs can be measured by the increase in genetic diversity and fitness of subsequent admixed individuals, predictions supporting admixture costs to fitness due to the introduction of novel deleterious alleles are necessary. Here, we analyzed nonsynonymous variation from conserved genes to quantify and compare levels of mutation load (i.e., proportion of deleterious alleles and genotypes carrying these alleles) among endangered Florida panthers and non-endangered Texas pumas. Specifically, we used canonical (i.e., non-admixed) Florida panthers, Texas pumas, and F1 (canonical Florida x Texas) panthers dating from a genetic rescue program and Everglades National Park panthers with Central American ancestry resulting from an earlier admixture event. We found neither genetic drift nor selection significantly reduced overall proportions of deleterious alleles in the severely bottlenecked canonical Florida panthers. Nevertheless, the deleterious alleles identified were distributed into a disproportionately high number of homozygous genotypes due to close inbreeding in this group. Conversely, admixed Florida panthers (either with Texas or Central American ancestry) presented reduced levels of homozygous genotypes carrying deleterious alleles but increased levels of heterozygous genotypes carrying these variants relative to canonical Florida panthers. Although admixture is likely to alleviate the load of standing deleterious variation present in homozygous genotypes, our results suggest introduced novel deleterious alleles (temporarily present in heterozygous state) in genetically rescued populations could potentially be expressed in subsequent generations if their effective sizes remain small.


University of Central Florida, Award: Preeminent Postdoctoral Program