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The mouflons of the Kerguelen archipelago

n the bird populations. Noticing that the mouflon population appeared to be thriving, he suggested to Réale that this population could be studied from a genetic viewpoint. Dave Coltman, a professor at the University of Alberta and a specialist in ungulate genetics, agreed to perform the analyses of the genetic material.

Combining their efforts, the researchers used hair, horns and tissue to reconstitute the evolution of the genetic diversity of the mouflon population from 1958 to 2003. Through the contribution of Jean-Louis Chapuis, Denis Réale had access to samples from populations living on the Islands between 1988 and 1996. For the missing years, the researchers appealed to the hunters who wintered there. “We got the missing DNA samples from hunting trophies and managed to go all the way back to the son of the founders,” said Denis Réale with a smile. “We were even able to obtain genetic material from the population of origin from the Vincennes Zoo. “We took the DNA from these samples, and looked at specific genetic sites,“ explained Renaud Kaeuffer. “We expected that the genetic diversity of this population of mouflons would be very homogeneous, and that this genetic diversity would decline over time. Instead, we observed the opposite.”

The effect of natural selection

diversity to be attributable to genetic mutation, and the Islands are much too isolated to have undergone migrations. “This variety can be explained by elimination, over the generations, of individuals with low genetic diversity. In small isolated populations, related individuals are likely to reproduce amongst themselves, resulting in inbreeding and homozygotes. The genetic variety of the population becomes impoverished and its evolutionary potential decreases. Furthermore, consanguinity is known to produce genetic diseases. The most heterozygous individuals are better able to resist these diseases,” explains Renaud Kaeuffer. The researchers stress the point th
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Source:Université du Québec à Montréal


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