The Speke's gazelle (Gazella spekei) captive breeding program has been presented as one of the few examples of selection reducing the genetic load of a population and as a potential model for the captive breeding of endangered species founded from a small number of individuals. In this breeding program, three generations of mate selection apparently increased the viability of inbred individuals. We reanalyzed the Speke's gazelle studbook and examined potential causes for the reduction of inbreeding depression. Our analysis indicates that the decrease in inbreeding depression is not consistent with any model of genetic improvement in the herd. Instead, we found that the effect of inbreeding decreased from severe to moderate during the first generation of inbreeding, and that this change is responsible for almost all of the decline in inbreeding depression observed during the breeding program. This eliminates selection as a potential explanation for the decrease in inbreeding depression and suggests that inbreeding depression may be more sensitive to environmental influences than is usually thought.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Nature and Landscape Conservation