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Review the “Conservation Genetics” section in the instructional materials

for this learning plan. Make sure you review the web links and case study. In your discussion post, explain genetic diversity and why is it important. Also, describe two factors which impact genetic diversity.

Learning Plan 5 Instructional Materials Conservation Genetics It’s important to understand what reduced population size, near-extinction and reduced habitat space can mean to a given species. When the habitat for a given species is reduced and numbers of that species’ population die back, the overall genetic pool is also reduced. Genetic diversity is one of the means by which species avoid extinction because of disease and other problems. Studies on populations that have been reduced to small numbers before conservation allowed them to repopulate have shown serious threats to the long-term survival of those species due to the reduced genetic diversity. For example, when people get sick, some may be really sick, while others seem almost immune. Because humans have somewhat different genetic construction, some people are more or less susceptible to certain diseases based on their genes, while others are less affected or even immune. What might affect one person greatly may not do the same for a second. Now imagine that you were cloned 10 times and that you and your 10 clones became ill. If one died, you all would most likely die, because you all have the same susceptibility to the same diseases and hardships because you have the same genetic makeup. Genetic diversity is how populations can survive and evolve through natural processes and catastrophes. Cheetahs are an example of this point. Genetic studies have shown that the genetic makeup of the male cheetah is so identical that skin grafts can be transferred from one to another without an immune response against it. Genetic studies suggest that at one point there was just one cheetah alive that gave rise to the current population of genetically near-identical male cheetahs. Cheetahs have low fertility rates, deformed sperm and low infant survival, and scientists say that lack of genetic diversity is one of the factors attributing to these issues. Thus, reduced genetic diversity from a population reduction can contribute to future survival rates and chances for the entire species. Case Study: In the days of Lewis and Clark, there were more than 50,000 grizzly bears in North America. Because of loss of habitat and hunting, the grizzly bear population in the area of Yellowstone National Park, were reduced to a population of just over 150 bears and were consequently put on the U.S. endangered species list in 1975. At that point, they could be located in just 1 to 2 percent of their original roaming ranges. Because of a serious threat of extinction, several conservation plans were put into place to help save and protect them. Extensive recovery plans and research were implemented that spanned private, public, and governmental sectors. Now, the bears’ population numbers have increased to over 500, and the U.S. government is considering taking them off the endangered species list. You can read more about this topic at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Web site on grizzly bear conservation programs: http://mountain- prairie.fws.gov/species/mammals/grizzly/factsheettalkingpoints111405.pdf Question: If the Yellowstone populations of grizzly bear were reduced to between 100- 200, their genetic diversity would also be reduced, along with and their ability to survive natural disasters and hardship. How do you feel that could affect the current recovery population of grizzlies? In what ways do you think density-dependent and density-
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independent factors will have more or fewer effects on the reduced gene-pool grizzlies? Is 500 enough to take them off the endangered list? How would it be different than the effects on populations of bears with greater genetic diversity? What are some options for dealing with these issues?
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