North American Crane Working Group


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Henkel, J.R. Pedigree analyses of the Mississippi sandhill crane. In: Hartup, Barry K., ed., Proceedings of the Eleventh North American Crane Workshop, Sep 23-27, 2008, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin (Baraboo, WI: North American Crane Working Group, 2010), pp. 66-71.


Reproduced by permission of the North American Crane Working Group.


The genetic status of the critically endangered Mississippi sandhill crane (Grus canadensis pulla) was analyzed using 2008 studbook data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service managed captive breeding and release program. Since the captive breeding program was established in 1964, gene diversity has decreased 6%, average mean kinship is at the level of first cousin, and inbreeding coefficients have been observed as high as 0.375. These high inbreeding levels were correlated with lower survivorship, and an analysis of the mate suitability of current pairs at the release site revealed poor mate suitability indices. These factors may be contributing to the low survivorship and poor nest success observed in the wild. Before the results of this study can be adequately assessed and applied to management strategies, current assumptions regarding original founder relationships must be improved. I recommend applying molecular genetic analyses of the captive and released Mississippi sandhill crane population to the results of this study to increase our understanding of the population's genetic structure, and promote management decisions that result in increased genetic diversity.