Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Inbreeding not to blame for Colorado's bighorn sheep population decline

27.07.2015

The health of Colorado's bighorn sheep population remains as precarious as the steep alpine terrain the animals inhabit, but a new study led by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder has found that inbreeding--a common hypothesis for a recent decline--likely isn't to blame.

Bighorn herds tend to be small and isolated in their mountain ecosystems, putting the animals at high risk for a genetic "bottleneck," said Catherine Driscoll, a graduate student in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at CU-Boulder and lead author of the study. Previous research has shown that inbreeding can weaken a population's immunity to disease across subsequent generations.


A bighorn sheep in Colorado is pictured.

Credit: Ann Hough / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

However, after using mitochondrial DNA data to analyze a diverse set of hereditary markers, researchers found that all five native herds in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) are maintaining healthy levels of genetic variation compared to other bighorn populations across the western United States.

"There's been enough gene flow between the herds, primarily due to high ram migration, that the population has been genetically rescued," Driscoll said.

The findings, which were recently published in the Journal of Wildlife Management, suggest that other factors such as nutritional deficiencies, habitat fragmentation and competition from encroaching mountain goats may play a more significant role in depressing bighorn population growth.

The researchers used DNA testing to examine genetic diversity across five separate RMNP herds. In particular, the study zeroed in on the Mummy herd, which experienced a severe population crash in the mid-1990s and has been especially slow to recover.

Although the Mummy herd is maintaining healthy levels of genetic variation, it may still carry higher exposure to stress factors due to its proximity to roads and trails on the eastern side of RMNP.

Colorado's bighorn population has trended downward since the 1800s, including a sharp 10.2 percent drop between 2001 and 2009. Wildlife managers have occasionally transplanted bighorns from other states in an attempt to restore herd numbers.

In addition to RMNP, bighorns can frequently be spotted at popular viewing destinations such as Mt. Evans, the Colorado National Monument and near Georgetown along Interstate 70.

###

Jeffry Mitton, a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado Boulder; James G. Driscoll, a researcher at the Blue Basin Wildlife Sanctuary; Corey Hazekamp, a research assistant at the University of Massachusetts; and John D. Wehausen, a research associate at the University of California San Diego, co-authored the study.

The National Park Service, Rocky Mountain National Park, the National Science Foundation, the Rocky Mountain Nature Association, the Indian Peaks Wilderness Alliance and the University of Colorado Boulder provided funding for the research.

Contact:

Trent Knoss, CU-Boulder media relations, 303-735-0528
trent.knoss@colorado.edu

Catherine Driscoll | EurekAlert!

Further reports about: Biology CU-Boulder DNA Department Mountain Sheep Wildlife bighorn sheep ecology factors genetic variation levels

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon
09.12.2016 | Wildlife Conservation Society

nachricht Successful calculation of human and natural influence on cloud formation
04.11.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>