Amelia Ramage

Amelia Ramage

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Amelia Ramage

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Start Year

2021 (Cohort 8)

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PhD Project
PhD Title

Comparative Conservation Genomics of an Endangered Cooperative Breeder: The African Wild Dog

Research Theme

Evolution and Adaptation

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Small populations face elevated extinction risks due to processes such as genetic drift and inbreeding. These processes work to homogenise small populations, reducing their adaptive potential and exposing recessive deleterious alleles. These genetic processes may be exacerbated in cooperatively-breeding species, where the social suppression of reproduction can greatly reduce effective population size (Ne). At the same time, behavioural avoidance of inbreeding can halt reproduction in exceedingly small populations. Understanding these impacts of social behaviour on the genetics and viability of small populations, may have great conservation importance. The African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) is a globally endangered cooperatively-breeding canid. Most populations <10 packs, and most packs include a single breeding pair. In reintroduced populations, genetic diversity is maintained throughout managed translocations, but such genetic management has never been conducted elsewhere. Drawing on samples from small populations in Senegal and Kenya, and larger populations in southern Africa, this project will quantify genetic structure and loss of genomic diversity following known bottlenecks, assessing impacts of inbreeding and inbreeding avoidance in populations of varying size and degree of isolation. In so doing, it will help inform conservation decisions about the genetic management of this highly endangered species.

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