Evaluating wildlife translocations using genomics: A bighorn sheep case study

Ecology and Evolution
By: , and 



Wildlife restoration often involves translocation efforts to reintroduce species and supplement small, fragmented populations. We examined the genomic consequences of bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) translocations and population isolation to enhance understanding of evolutionary processes that affect population genetics and inform future restoration strategies. We conducted a population genomic analysis of 511 bighorn sheep from 17 areas, including native and reintroduced populations that received 0–10 translocations. Using the Illumina High Density Ovine array, we generated datasets of 6,155 to 33,289 single nucleotide polymorphisms and completed clustering, population tree, and kinship analyses. Our analyses determined that natural gene flow did not occur between most populations, including two pairs of native herds that had past connectivity. We synthesized genomic evidence across analyses to evaluate 24 different translocation events and detected eight successful reintroductions (i.e., lack of signal for recolonization from nearby populations) and five successful augmentations (i.e., reproductive success of translocated individuals) based on genetic similarity with the source populations. A single native population founded six of the reintroduced herds, suggesting that environmental conditions did not need to match for populations to persist following reintroduction. Augmentations consisting of 18–57 animals including males and females succeeded, whereas augmentations of two males did not result in a detectable genetic signature. Our results provide insight on genomic distinctiveness of native and reintroduced herds, information on the relative success of reintroduction and augmentation efforts and their associated attributes, and guidance to enhance genetic contribution of augmentations and reintroductions to aid in bighorn sheep restoration.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Evaluating wildlife translocations using genomics: A bighorn sheep case study
Series title Ecology and Evolution
DOI 10.1002/ece3.6942
Volume 10
Issue 24
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center
Description 18 p.
First page 13687
Last page 13704
Country United States
State Montana, Idaho, Wyoming
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