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Keywords:

  • demographic methods;
  • effective population size;
  • genetic methods;
  • mating system;
  • mouflon;
  • population dynamics

Abstract

The Haute Island mouflon (Ovis aries) population is isolated on one small (6.5 km2) island of the remote Kerguelen archipelago. Given a promiscuous mating system, a cyclic demography and a strong female-biased sex ratio after population crashes, we expected a low effective population size (Ne). We estimated Ne using demographic and temporal genetic approaches based on genetic information at 25 microsatellite loci from 62 and 58 mouflons sampled in 1988 and 2003, respectively. Genetic Ne estimates were higher than expected, varying between 104 and 250 depending on the methods used. Both demographic and genetic approaches show the Haute Island Ne is buffered against population crashes. The unexpectedly high Ne likely results from the cyclic winter crashes that allow young males to reproduce, limiting the variance of male reproductive success. Based on individual-based simulations, we suggest that despite a strongly female-biased sex ratio, the effects of the mating system on the effective population size more closely resemble random mating or weak polygyny.