SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

Genetic adaptation to captive environments is likely to reduce the reproductive fitness of endangered species when they are reintroduced into natural environments. Equalization of family sizes is predicted to halve genetic adaptation to captivity as it removes selection among families and is recommended in captive management of threatened species. This prediction was evaluated by comparing the reproductive fitnesses of replicate populations of Drosophila maintained using either equal (EFS) or variable family sizes (VFS) for 25 generations in captivity under uncrowded conditions on a medium containing CuSO4. After 25 generations, EFS populations produced 8.8% more offspring per pair than their outbred base population on CuSO4 medium, while VFS produced 17.5% more. Consequently, the rate of genetic adaptation to captivity in EFS was about half that in VFS, as predicted. In simulated ‘wild’ conditions (crowded, competitive conditions on medium lacking CuSO4), both treatments showed much lower reproductive fitness than their outbred base population, the reductions being 38% in EFS populations and 43% in VFS populations. Surprisingly, reproductive fitness of the two treatments did not differ significantly under these conditions. These results raise doubts about the ability of equalization of family sizes to reduce genetic deterioration that adversely affects reintroduction success for captive populations of endangered species.