how do conservationists get enough genetic diversity to save a species from extinction with single or low population mating pairs?


As the title states, how is the population diverse enough for long term survival? We’ve been watching a lot of Extinct or Alive on animal planet and they make it seem like they can “save a species” with a single mating pair.

In: Biology

Zoo breeding programs are very careful with what animals breed with what when there are very few in captivity to prevent genetic problems. However if is a choice between genetic problems or the species dying out then it is better to just let them breed and sort out the issues later.

Some species have a lot more genetic diversity, so the number of individuals necessary is lower.

Inbreeding does not *guarantee* issues, it increases the chances. For example, if both parents are carriers of a recessive gene for the disease, 3/4 of the offspring will be unaffiliated.

When a species is completely doomed, sometimes they will bring a very genetically similar species in that can interbreed to restore diversity. This is what happened with Florida panthers. Eventually there was not enough genetic diversity left in the population for them to survive. Normally genes have multiple alleles or versions, think like an eye color gene that could be a blue or brown allele, but they can become “fixed” so that one version of the gene completely disappears in tiny populations. This becomes a huge problem with things that cause recessive genetic disorders or make the animals similar to disease and will eventually lead to extinction. They brought in Texas pumas that are genetically similar enough to interbreed with them to reintroduce genetic diversity. A lot of times this isn’t an option, as you obviously need another species similar enough to produce fertile offspring.