Indirect genetic estimates of breeding population size in the polyploid green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris)


Joshua A. Israel, Fax: +1 530 754 0175; E-mail:


The utility of genetic measures for kinship reconstruction in polysomic species is not well evaluated. We developed a framework to test hypotheses about estimating breeding population size indirectly from collections of outmigrating green sturgeon juveniles. We evaluated a polysomic dataset, in allelic frequency and phenotypic formats, from green sturgeon to describe the relationship among known progeny from experimental families. The distributions of relatedness values for kin classes were used for reconstructing green sturgeon pedigrees from juveniles of unknown relationship. We compared three rarefaction functions that described the relationship between the number of kin groups and number of samples in a pedigree to estimate the annual abundance of spawners contributing to the threatened green sturgeon Southern Distinct Population Segment in the upper Sacramento River. Results suggested the estimated abundance of breeding green sturgeon remained roughly constant in the upper Sacramento River over a 5-year period, ranging from 10 to 28 individuals depending on the year and rarefaction method. These results demonstrate an empirical understanding for the distribution of relatedness values among individuals is a benefit for assessing pedigree reconstruction methods and identifying misclassification rates. Monitoring of rare species using these indirect methods is feasible and can provide insight into breeding and ontogenetic behaviour. While this framework was developed for specific application to studying fish populations in a riverscape, the framework could be advanced to improve genetic estimation of breeding population size and to identify important breeding habitats of rare species when combined with finer-scaled sampling of offspring.