Better Breeding

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Science  18 Jun 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5985, pp. 1455
DOI: 10.1126/science.328.5985.1455-a

Projects aimed at saving endangered species sometimes must rely on a depleted gene pool. Inbreeding is often associated with deleterious effects on reproduction and survival due in part to the expression of recessive alleles, but other mechanisms may also operate. Ruiz-López et al. have examined the effect of inbreeding on sperm integrity for three endangered North African gazelles—Gazella cuvieri, G. dama mhorr, and G. dorcas. DNA fragmentation in sperm was greatly elevated in captive populations of the former two species, which are highly inbred, and DNA damage increased with age. In addition, there was evidence of abnormal sperm structure as well as decreased sperm motility. In a related study, the same authors examined offspring survival rates in G. cuvieri and found that an increase in sperm DNA fragmentation had a large impact on the mortality rate of progeny. Furthermore, when primiparous females mated with males who displayed high levels of sperm DNA fragmentation, the offspring suffered high mortality. Multiparous mothers, however, seemed able to produce viable offspring, possibly because their oocytes could better repair the damaged DNA. Understanding the limitations of inbreeding may assist in designing reproductive programs for endangered species.

Biol. Reprod. 81, 10.1095/biolreprod.110.084798 (2010); Proc. R. Soc. London Ser. B 277, 10.1098/rspb.2010.0333 (2010).

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