Avian conservation genetics in the era of genomics

Research output: Contribution to journalAbstractpeer-review


The central tenet of conservation genetics is the maintenance of genetic diversity. High levels of genetic diversity minimise levels of inbreeding depression in individuals, and maximise the evolutionary potential of populations. Traditionally, levels of genetic diversity in natural populations have been surveyed from neutral markers, such as microsatellite length polymorphisms, that have minimal adaptive or functional value. It is unclear to what extent neutral proxies accurately reflect levels of ecologically meaningful genetic variation at functional genes that will have direct impact on individual fitness and adaptive potential in a changing environment. Conservation effort aimed at maintaining adaptively important genetic diversity in natural populations must be underpinned both by an understanding of the molecular mechanisms that determine fitness-related traits, and also how such diversity will vary in response to the changing demographic structure and diverse selection pressures inherent in natural populations. The advent of genomics has yielded powerful new approaches for elucidating the genetic basis of adaptation and fitness in non-model species, and determining the spatio-temporal dynamics of fitness-related genes in natural populations. Here I highlight some of the genomics tools that have been used to define adaptive genetic diversity in avian species, ranging from the isolation and characterisation of candidate gene regions likely to directly impact individual fitness, to genome-wide scans directed to determine multi-locus responses to specific selection regimes. Specific examples, primarily from my own work on grouse, are used to illustrate
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-18
Number of pages2
JournalJournal of Ornithology
Issue numberSuppl. 1
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2006


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