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Sexual Selection and Life-History Decisions: Implications for Supportive Breeding and the Management of Captive Populations

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Natural breeding systems and various kinds of mate-choice or sperm-choice rules (e.g., as proposed in the “good genes” models of sexual selection) are expected to have important implications for the genetics of the next generation. Moreover, mate-choice decisions may be connected to life-history decisions about current and future parental effort. Considering these genetic and conditional aspects of free mating could improve the long-term success of breeding programs in conservation. In some cases, free mate choice might be more genetically advantageous than random mating because it may promote offspring health and enable host populations to react to coevolving pathogens. However, breeding systems are not evolved to avoid extinction. In small and endangered populations, some forms of natural breeding systems and mate preferences need to be carefully manipulated to avoid an extensive reduction of the effective population size (   Ne  ). In general, supportive breeding should minimize the variance in reproductive success that is not linked to viability traits. However, minimizing reproductive skew might not be the best conservation strategy if potential mates differ in their heritable viability. If a reproductive skew can be positively linked to heritable viability or increased parental effort, there might be a way to optimize this skew with respect to the survival prospects of a population.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Institute of Cell, Animal and Population Biology,University of Edinburgh, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JT, Scotland, United Kingdom,

Publication date: October 1, 2002

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