DNA “fingerprinting” and the genetic management of a captive chimpanzee population (Pan troglodytes)

Authors

  • John Ely,

    1. Department of Human Genetics, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    Current affiliation:
    1. Department of Biology, Trinity University, 715 Stadium Drive, San Antonio, TX 78284
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  • Patricia Alford,

    1. University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Science Park, Department of Veterinary Resources, Bastrop, Texas
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  • Robert E. Ferrell

    1. Department of Human Genetics, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
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Abstract

DNA fingerprinting probes are cloned sequences which simultaneously detect a large number of similar hypervariable loci in the target DNA. The resulting highly polymorphic pattern visualized on an autoradiograph allows resolution of questions concerning individual identification and parentage. M13 bacteriophage has been used as a DNA fingerprinting probe for paternity ascertainment among captive chimpanzees housed in multi-male groups as part of the National Chimpanzee Breeding and Research Program. In 31 cases of unknown paternity where DNA samples for mother, offspring, and all potential sires were available, DNA fingerprinting with M13 resulted in the unambiguous assignment of paternity for all 31 infants. Knowledge of pedigrees among the captive-born animals is used to address several issues important in the genetic management of captive breeding colonies, including estimation of effective population size and of the rate of decline in genetic variability, variance in male and female reproduction, and the effect of social dominance on male reproductive success. Our analysis demonstrates the beneficial effects of genetic management by comparing the managed dedicated cohort to the Bastrop colony as a whole.

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