student profile: Ms Kate Farquharson


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Thesis work

Thesis title: Investigating adaptation to captivity in phylogenetically diverse species

Supervisors: Catherine GRUEBER , Carolyn HOGG

Thesis abstract:

Captive breeding programs must achieve a sustainable level of reproduction in order to avoid the consequences of small population size and to provide surplus animals for reintroduction. However, some individuals do not breed as well as others, making reproductive success hard to predict. In particular, captive-born animals can have lower reproductive success than wild-born animals in captivity. This risks the sustainability of long-running captive breeding programs made up largely of captive-born individuals, and of reintroduction programs if these animals have reduced fitness. The majority of studies comparing the reproductive success of wild-born and captive-born animals in captive environments examine only birth origin but do not take into account changes in reproductive success that may occur over generations in captivity, such as with adaptation to captivity. We have obtained pedigree data for numerous long-running, large, managed and phylogenetically diverse conservation breeding programs and aim to quantitatively analyse the effect of generations in captivity on various measures of reproductive success. To improve reproductive success in captive breeding programs, the incorporation of mate choice has been suggested. However, as the basis of mate choice is unknown for many species, the impacts on the genetic diversity of the captive population cannot be determined. In this project, we are applying restriction site associated DNA sequencing to Tasmanian devils from the captive insurance population to determine whether there is evidence of genetic based mate choice, what impact this may have on genetic diversity, and whether this strategy could be implemented more widely to improve captive breeding programs. Our research will inform the captive management of threatened species.

Selected publications

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Journals

  • Farquharson, K., Hogg, C., Grueber, C. (2017). Pedigree analysis reveals a generational decline in reproductive success of captive Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii): implications for captive management of threatened species. Journal of Heredity, 108(5), 488-495. [More Information]

2017

  • Farquharson, K., Hogg, C., Grueber, C. (2017). Pedigree analysis reveals a generational decline in reproductive success of captive Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii): implications for captive management of threatened species. Journal of Heredity, 108(5), 488-495. [More Information]

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