Genetic variation and mating success in managed American plains bison

TitleGenetic variation and mating success in managed American plains bison
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsUngerer, MC, Weitekamp, CA, Joern, A, Towne, G, Briggs, JM
JournalJournal of Heredity
Pagination182 -191
Accession NumberKNZ001528

The American plains bison (Bison bison) was pushed to the brink of extinction in the late 1800s but has since rebounded. Less than 5% of animals currently exist in conservation herds that are critical for maintaining genetic variability. Here, we use 25 microsatellite loci to assess genetic diversity and patterns of mating success over a 3-year period in a managed conservation herd at Konza Prairie Biological Station, Kansas (total number of individuals genotyped = 587). Heterozygosity was comparable to and allelic diversity higher than that in 11 other wild and managed herds for which similar estimates are available. Parentage analyses revealed that males within the oldest age classes (5–7 years) sired >90% of calves over the study period, consistent with a polygynous breeding system. Asymmetries in siring success also were observed within age classes, with the same males enjoying high siring success over multiple seasons. Empirical results of paternity will facilitate future modeling and empirical efforts to determine how demographic factors, population size, and variation in siring success interact to determine the retention (or loss) of genetic diversity in natural and managed herds, thus allowing informed recommendations for management practices and conservation efforts of this symbolic North American species.