MOLECULAR APPROACHES TO THE STUDY OF PARENTAGE,
RELATEDNESS, AND FITNESS: PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS FOR
J. ANDREW D
Department of Forestry & Natural Resources, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907-1159, USA
Historically, novel molecular techniques have been developed by the human genetics community, adapt-
ed for nonhuman organisms by evolutionary biologists, and gradually adopted by the wildlife and fisheries com-
munities. Today, evolutionary biologists routinely rely on molecules to assess mate choice, dispersal, parentage, sex
ratios, and other population parameters. All in all, the use of molecular genetic markers has revolutionized popu-
lation biology—human and otherwise. Prescient wildlife and fisheries biologists have recognized the importance
of this revolution and are now using molecular genetic tools to evaluate captive or supplemental breeding pro-
grams, population dynamics, stocking strategies, and taxonomic issues. Herein, I explore the use of molecular
genetic markers to address questions in wildlife biology and management. Specifically, I review how—among other
topics—cannibalism, sex-ratios, dispersal, enumeration, genotoxicology, hybridization, and genetically modified
organisms can be evaluated in the context of parentage, relatedness, and fitness. As science becomes more inte-
grative and complex, it is easy to envision a future where collaborations between geneticists (who may not have the
expertise to obtain the field samples) and wildlife biologists (who may not have the expertise and/or facilities to
obtain the genotypes) are common and serve to answer both fundamental and applied questions.
JOURNAL OF WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT 69(4):1400–1418; 2005
cannibalism, dispersal, evolution, genetics, genotoxicology, hybridization, kinship, mate choice, repro-
ductive success, transgenic.
Novel molecular techniques usually arise within
the human genetics community and slowly filter
into ecology and evolutionary biology, wildlife
management, and fisheries management. Evolu-
tionary biologists have been using molecular (i.e.,
DNA) markers for over a decade, and recently the
fisheries community has taken full advantage of
the DNA tools at their disposal. For example, the
ichthyology literature is now replete with molecu-
lar assessments of taxonomy (reviewed in Turner
), genetic diversity and population structure
(Carvalho and Hauser
), and biological
parentage (DeWoody and Avise
, Avise et al.
). Further, fisheries biologists have carefully
considered the genetics of founders prior to stock-
ing (Hedrick et al.
, Page et al.
) or sup-
plemental breeding (Barton and Scribner
Fiumera et al.
). Wildlife biologists are faced
with many of these same issues, and herein I focus
on how molecular assessments of parentage, re-
latedness, and quantitative genetics can influence