From Conservation Genetics to Conservation Genomics


Address for correspondence: Craig R. Primmer, Division of Genetics and Physiology, Department of Biology, University of Turku, 20014, Finland.


Although the application of population and evolutionary genetic theory and methods to address issues of conservation relevance has a long history, the formalization of conservation genetics as a research field is still relatively recent. One of the periodic catalysts for increased research effort in the field has been advances in molecular technologies, leading to an increasingly wider variety of molecular markers for application in conservation genetic studies. To date, genetic methods have been applied in conservation biology primarily as selectively neutral molecular tools for resolving questions of conservation relevance. However, there has been renewed interest in complementing the analysis of neutral markers with the assessment of loci that may be directly involved in responses to processes such as environmental change, with a view to identifying the genes involved in them. These kinds of studies are now possible due to the increase in availability of genomic resources for nonmodel organisms, and there will likely be an even more rapid increase in the near future due to the advent of new ultrahigh throughput–sequencing technologies. This review considers the implications of the most recent developments in genomic technologies and their potential for contributing to the conservation of populations and species. Three “conservation genomics” case studies are presented (Atlantic salmon, Salmo sala; the butterfly, Melitaea cinxia; and the California condor, Gymnogyps californianus) in order to demonstrate the diversity of applications now possible. While it is clear that genomics approaches in conservation will not replace other tried-and-true methods, these recent developments open up an exciting new range of possibilities that will enable further diversification of the application of genomics in conservation biology.