Using genetic monitoring to inform best practice in a captive breeding programme: inbreeding and potential genetic rescue in the freshwater pearl mussel Margaritifera margaritifera

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Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1323-1332
JournalConservation Genetics
Early online date05 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2016
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Freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) populations are declining in Northern Ireland to the extent that a captive breeding programme was established on the Upper Ballinderry river in 1998. Previous genetic analysis of the hatchery broodstock and their first cohort of offspring showed significant levels of inbreeding (FIS = 0.166). The broodstock, which currently numbers ca. 90 individuals, was supplemented with new individual mussels, whilst in 2013, a previously unknown population was discovered on the Lower Ballinderry river. The aim of the present study was to determine whether the rotation of the broodstock has led to a decrease in the levels of inbreeding in the second cohort of juveniles, and to determine whether the new population found in the Lower Ballinderry was genetically distinct from the captive bred population and populations from the Upper Ballinderry, which represent the source of the hatchery broodstock. Genotyping using eight microsatellite markers indicated that levels of inbreeding in the second cohort of captive-bred mussels were high, (FIS = 0.629), and were comparable to those sampled from the original cohort and the hatchery broodstock (FIS = 0.527 and 0.636 respectively). Bayesian analysis of population structure indicated that the newly discovered Lower Ballinderry population was genetically distinct from the broodstock and its source populations on the Upper Ballinderry. The observed differentiation was primarily due to differences in allele frequencies, and was most likely a result of genetic drift. The occurrence of ten alleles, albeit at low frequency, in the Lower Ballinderry population, including four private alleles, suggests that this new population could be incorporated into the broodstock with the aim of decreasing levels of inbreeding in the future.


  • ex situ conservation, genetic monitoring, genetic rescue, inbreeding, Margaritifera margaritifera, microsatellites