Conservation management strategy impacts inbreeding and mutation load in scimitar-horned oryx

Emily Humble*, Martin Stoffel, Kara Dicks, Alex D. Ball, Rebecca M Gooley, Justin Chuven , Ricardo Pusey, Mohammed Al Remeith, Klaus-Peter Koepfli, Budhan Pukazhenthi, Helen Senn, Rob Ogden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In an age of habitat loss and overexploitation, small populations, both captive and wild, are increasingly facing the effects of isolation and inbreeding. Genetic management has therefore become a vital tool for ensuring population viability. However, little is known about how the type and intensity of intervention shape the genomic landscape of inbreeding and mutation load. We address this using whole-genome sequence data of the scimitar-horned oryx ( Oryx dammah), an iconic antelope that has been subject to contrasting management strategies since it was declared extinct in the wild. We show that unmanaged populations are enriched for long runs of homozygosity (ROH) and have significantly higher inbreeding coefficients than managed populations. Additionally, despite the total number of deleterious alleles being similar across management strategies, the burden of homozygous deleterious genotypes was consistently higher in unmanaged groups. These findings emphasize the risks associated with deleterious mutations through multiple generations of inbreeding. As wildlife management strategies continue to diversify, our study reinforces the importance of maintaining genome-wide variation in vulnerable populations and has direct implications for one of the largest reintroduction attempts in the world.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2210756120
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)
Issue number18
Early online date25 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Ex-situ populations
  • runs of homozygosity (ROH)
  • deleterious mutations
  • reintroduction
  • effective population size


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