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Genetic Management of Wild and Captive Populations

  • Female golden lion tamarin Gemma crouches on a branch in an indoor exhibit.

Over the last few decades, scientists at the Center for Conservation Genomics identified problems with inbreeding and closely-related animals in small populations of wild animals and animals in human care.

Smithsonian scientists were the first to develop theoretical bases and genetic resources for breeding programs to maintain a diverse gene pool over many generations. They also developed the software and database tools needed to help those that manage breeding animals translate this into formal breeding plans and strategies for both wild and zoo populations. This software, known as PMx, is now one of the primary tools conservation biologists use all over the world.

As scientific methods progress and software environments evolve, genetic management programs and the type of data they analyze need to be revised and updated. CCG scientists apply cutting-edge approaches to improve genetic management. For example, genomic data can provide information on how animals are related, especially when scientists aren’t sure which animals bred.