The Tiburon Island population of desert bighorn sheep has increased in size from 20 founders in 1975 to approximately 650 in 1999. This population is now the only population being used as the source stock for transplantations throughout northern Mexico. To evaluate the genetic variation in this population, we examined 10 microsatellite loci and a major histocompatibility complex (MHC) locus. The genetic variation was significantly less than found in other populations of the same subspecies in Arizona. Using a model that takes into account the effects of genetic drift on genetic distance, most of the genetic distance observed between the Tiburon population and Arizona samples could be explained. Because of the low genetic variation found in the Tiburon population, it is suggested that the Tiburon population should be supplemented with additional unrelated animals or that the transplant populations should be supplemented with unrelated animals.
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