U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


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Miller, M.P., S.M. Haig, E.D. Forsman, R.G. Anthony, L. Diller, K.M. Dugger, A.B. Franklin, T.L. Fleming, S. Gremel, D.B. Lesmeister, M. Higley, D.R. Herter, and S.G. Sovern. 2018. Variation in inbreeding rates across the range of Northern Spotted Owls (Strix occidentalis caurina): Insights from over 30 years of monitoring data. The Auk 135(4):821-833. doi: 10.1642/AUK-18-1.1


U.S. government work.


Inbreeding has been difficult to quantify in wild populations because of incomplete parentage information. We applied and extended a recently developed framework for addressing this problem to infer inbreeding rates in Northern Spotted Owls (Strix occidentalis caurina) across the Pacific Northwest, USA. Using pedigrees from 14,187 Northern Spotted Owls, we inferred inbreeding rates for 14 types of matings among relatives that produce pedigree inbreeding coefficients of F=0.25 or F=0.125. Inbreeding was most common in the Washington Cascades, where an estimated 15% of individuals are inbred. Inbreeding was lowest in western Oregon (3.5%) and northern California (2.7%), and intermediate for the Olympic Peninsula of Washington (6.1%). Estimates from the Olympic Peninsula were likely underestimates because of small sample sizes and the presence of few pedigrees capable of resolving inbreeding events. Most inbreeding resulted from matings between full siblings or half siblings, although a high rate of inbreeding from mother–son pairs was identified in the Olympic Peninsula. Geographic variation in inbreeding rates may reflect population declines and bottlenecks that have been detected in prior investigations. We show that there is strong selection against inbred birds. Only 3 of 44 inbred birds were later identified as parents (6.8%), whereas 2,823 of 10,380 birds that represented a comparable cross section of the data were later seen as reproducing parents (27.2%). Habitat loss and competition with Barred Owls (S. varia) remain primary threats to Northern Spotted Owls. However, given the negative consequences of inbreeding, Spotted Owl populations in Washington with suitable habitat and manageable numbers of Barred Owls may benefit from translocations of individuals from Oregon and California to introduce new genetic variation and reduce future inbreeding events.

La endogamia ha sido dif´ıcil de cuantificar en las poblaciones silvestres debido a la falta de informaci ´on sobre los parentescos. Aplicamos y extendimos un marco conceptual recientemente desarrollado para encarar el problema de inferir las tasas de endogamia en Strix occidentalis caurina a trav´es del noroeste del Pac´ıfico, EEUU. Usando los pedigr´ıes provenientes de 14187 individuos, inferimos las tasas de endogamia para 14 tipos de apareamiento entre parientes que producen coeficientes de endogamia de pedigr´ı de F=0.25 o F=0.125. La endogamia fue ma´s com´un en las Cascadas de Washington, donde se estima que 15% de los individuos son endoga´micos. La endogamia fue menor en el oeste de Oreg´on (3.5%) y el norte de California (2.7%), e intermedia en la Pen´ınsula Ol´ımpica de Washington (6.1%). Las estimaciones de la Pen´ınsula Ol´ımpica fueron probablemente subestimadas debido a los peque ˜nos tama ˜nos de muestreo y a la presencia de pocos pedigr´ıes capaces de resolver los eventos de endogamia. La mayor´ıa de la endogamia result ´o de los apareamientos entre hermanos completos o medios hermanos, aunque se identific ´o una alta tasa de endogamia en parejas madre/hijo en la Pen´ınsula Ol´ımpica. La variaci ´on geogra´ fica en las tasas de endogamia puede reflejar disminuciones poblacionales y cuellos de botella que han sido detectados en investigaciones previas. Mostramos que hay una fuerte selecci ´on contra las aves endoga´micas. Solo tres de 44 aves endoga´micas fueron ma´s tarde identificadas como progenitores (6.8%), mientras que 2823 de 10380 aves que representaron una secci ´on transversal comparable de datos fueron vistas ma´s tarde como progenitores reproductivos (27.2%). La p´erdida de ha´bitat y la competencia con Strix varia sigue siendo la principal amenaza para S. o. caurina. Sin embargo, dadas las consecuencias negativas de la endogamia, las poblaciones de S. occidentalis en Washington con ha´bitat adecuado y n´umeros manejables de Strix varia pueden beneficiarse de traslocaciones de individuos de Oreg´on y California para introducir nueva variaci ´on gen´etica y reducir futuros eventos de endogamia.

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