Behavioral ecology and sociobiology 2016 12 0971(1) 18 doi 10.1007/s00265-016-2236-6
When close relatives mate, offspring are expected to suffer fitness consequences due to inbreeding depression. Inbreeding has previously been quantified in two ways: using a sufficiently large panel of markers or deep and complete pedigrees over several generations. However, the application of both approaches is still limited by the challenge of compiling such data for species with long generation times, such as primates. Here, we assess inbreeding in rhesus macaques living on Cayo Santiago (Puerto Rico), a population genetically isolated since 1938, but descendant of a large set of presumably unrelated founders. Using comprehensive genetic data, we calculated inbreeding coefficients (F) for 2669 individuals with complete three generation pedigrees and 609 individuals with complete four generation pedigrees. We found that 0.79 and 7.39% of individuals had an F > 0 when using data from three and four generation pedigrees, respectively. No evidence of an increase in inbreeding over the study period (up to 23 years) was found. Furthermore, the observed mean relatedness of breeding pairs differed significantly from the distribution of parental relatedness expected as simulated based on previous reproductive data, suggesting that kin generally avoid breeding with each other. Finally, inbreeding was not a predictor of early mortality measured as survival until weaning and sexual maturation, respectively. Our results remain consistent with three estimators of inbreeding (standardized heterozygosity, internal relatedness, and homozygosity by loci) using up to 42 highly polymorphic microsatellites for the same set of individuals. Together, our results demonstrate that close inbreeding may not be prevalent even in populations isolated over long periods when mechanisms of inbreeding avoidance can operate.
When close relatives mate, offspring may suffer from such inbreeding, e.g., via lower survival and/or fertility. Using (i) a large panel of genetic markers and (ii) complete three or four generation pedigrees, respectively, we show that incidences of inbreeding in a long-lived primate population are rare, even after genetic isolation for 75 years. Moreover, our simulations suggest that kin in our population generally avoid breeding with each other. Finally, the few inbred individuals detected in our large sample did not suffer from lower survival. Given that many animal species face dramatic habitat loss combined with critical population declines, our study provides important implications for conservation biology in general and for population management in particular.