Identification of kin structure among Guam rail founders: a comparison of pedigrees and DNA profiles


  • S. M. Haig and J. D. Ballou have been working on the conservation genetics of Guam Rails since 1987. N. J. Casna prepared the DNA profiles and generated band-sharing coefficients. Results and methods described in this paper are being used in designing the reintroduction of Guam rails to the wild and for maintaining a viable captive population of Micronesian Kingfishers, a species that was also extirpated from Guam.

National Biological Survey, Oregon State University, 3200 SW Jefferson Way, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA.


Kin structure among founders can have a significant effect on subsequent population structure. Here we use the correlation between DNA profile similarity and relatedness calculated from pedigrees to test hypotheses regarding kin structure among founders to the captive Guam rail (Rallus owstoni) population. Five different pedigrees were generated under the following hypotheses: (i) founders are unrelated; (ii) founders are unrelated except for same-nest chicks; (iii) founders from the same major site are siblings; (iv) founders from the same local site are siblings; and (v) founders are related as defined by a UPGMA cluster analysis of DNA similarity data. Relatedness values from pedigrees 1, 2 and 5 had the highest correlation with DNA similarity but the correlation between relatedness and similarity were not significantly different among pedigrees. Pedigree 5 resulted in the highest correlation overall when using only relatedness values that changed as a result of different founder hypotheses. Thus, founders were assigned relatedness based on pedigree 5 because it had the highest correlations with DNA similarity, was the most conservative approach, and incorporated all field data. The analyses indicated that estimating relatedness using DNA profiles remains problematic, therefore we compared mean kinship, a measure of genetic importance, with mean DNA profile similarity to determine if genetic importance among individuals could be determined via use of DNA profiles alone. The significant correlation suggests this method may provide more information about population structure than was previously thought. Thus, DNA profiles can provide a reasonable explanation for founder relatedness and mean DNA profile similarity may be helpful in determining relative genetic importance of individuals when detailed pedigrees are absent.