Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



What Is Mean Kinship?


Mean Kinship (MK): Measures Genetic Importance.
A mean kinship (MK) value is calculated for each animal in the population using a formula. Mean kinship gives a numerical value to how closely related each animal is to the popluation. (This gives us an important measure of just how rare an individual animal's unique combination of genes is in the entire population.)

Animals with a lower mean kinship values have relatively fewer genes in common with the rest of the population, and are therefore more genetically valuable in a breeding program.

For example, the mean kinship of animal "1" would be:


MK1 = Average relationship between "1" and each individual in population

MK1 = .01
MK4 = .04
MK2 = .07
MK3 = .09

Most valuable: individual with lowest MK
A low mean kinship value indicates that an indvidual has few relatives in the population, and thus is genetically valuable.