Breeding trouble: Meta-analysis identifies fishy issues with captive stocks

March 13, 2018, University of Sydney
Co-author Dr Carolyn Hogg working with released captive born devils on Maria Island in Australia's state of Tasmania. Credit: Phil Wise took the photo on Dr Hogg's camera.

A group of researchers based at the University of Sydney has uncovered patterns that may be jeopardising the long-term success of worldwide animal breeding programs, which increasingly act as an insurance against extinction in conservation, and for food security.

The meta-analysis, led by the University of Sydney's Faculty of Science, found captive-born had, on average, almost half the odds of reproductive success compared to their wild-born counterparts in captivity.

In aquaculture, the effects were particularly pronounced, although research and showed the same trend.

The study analysed more than 100 results, from 39 animal studies of 44 diverse species including shrimp, fish, mice, ducks, lemurs and Tasmanian devils.

The paper, "A meta-analysis of birth-origin effects on reproduction in diverse captive environments", is published today in Nature Communications.

Dr Catherine Grueber, who supervised the study, said the team was surprised at how universal the patterns were.

"More than 2,000 threatened species rely on successful reproduction through captive breeding programs for conservation alone," said Dr Grueber, from the University of Sydney's School of Life and Environmental Sciences and San Diego Zoo Global.

"In order to maintain our food supply, it's crucial we improve captive breeding; for example, the aquaculture industry is looking at introducing new species for commercialisation."

Sydney-based researchers Dr Catherine Grueber, Dr Carolyn Hogg and Ms Kate Farquharson examining the effects of animal breeding across species. Credit: University of Sydney

Lead author, PhD student Ms Kate Farquharson, said the results provide opportunities for improving the long-term success of animal breeding programs.

"Our dataset included measurements of lots of different reproductive traits - such as fertility, number of offspring, and timing of reproduction - but found that certain traits, such as offspring weight and mothering ability, seem to be the most strongly affected," Ms Farquharson said.

"This provides an opportunity for animal breeding programs, by identifying the areas where improvement could boost sustainability."

Research manager at the University of Sydney's Australasian Wildlife Genomics Group, co-author Dr Carolyn Hogg, said the research could be extended by undertaking multi-generational studies.

"Identifying limitations as well as opportunities in captive breeding programs across all industries is an urgent priority," Dr Hogg said.

Explore further: Parental diet affects offspring immunity

More information: Katherine A. Farquharson et al, A meta-analysis of birth-origin effects on reproduction in diverse captive environments, Nature Communications (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-03500-9

Related Stories

Parental diet affects offspring immunity

November 27, 2017

A review of studies about parents' diet and the immunity of animal offspring has found a close relationship exists, with implications for wildlife conservation and livestock rearing as well as human health.

The evolution of personality

November 25, 2013

Reintroduction programs are key initiatives for re-establishing or re-stocking animal populations, and while some are successful, many, unfortunately, are not.

Scientific evaluation of rhino diets improves zoo

October 26, 2017

A recently published study in the journal Pachyderm highlights the ongoing effort of accredited zoos to address challenges and improve the sustainability of endangered species populations in their care. The study, co-authored ...

Using genomics to save endangered species

April 14, 2016

Currently, many threatened and endangered species are present in captivity. Their management is mostly focused on keeping the population viable (both demographically and genetically) and as similar to the wild ancestor populations ...

Recommended for you

Fruit fly species can learn each other's dialects

July 19, 2018

Fruit flies from different species can warn each other when parasitic wasps are near. But according to a new study led by Balint Z. Kacsoh of Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, published July 19th in PLOS Genetics, they ...

New insights into plants' conquest of land

July 19, 2018

The Earth is filled with diverse and remarkable plant forms from the tallest redwoods that pierce forest canopies, to the smallest mosses that blanket the ground underfoot.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.