Assessing genetic diversity patterns at neutral and adaptive loci to inform population reinforcement of an endangered migratory vulture

Anastasios Bounas, Victoria Saravia-Mullin, Maria Méndez, Volen Arkumarev, Lusine Aghajanyan, Korsh Ararat, Evan Buechley, Vladimir Dobrev, Dobromir Dobrev, Ron Efrat, Ivaylo Klisurov, Elzbieta Kret, Theodora Skartsi, Steffen Oppel, Rusko Petrov, Çağan H. Şekercioğlu, Anton Vaidl, José A. Donázar, Stoyan C. Nikolov, Konstantinos Sotiropoulos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One of the primary goals of conservation translocation programs should be the maintenance of both population demographic stability and genetic diversity. Here, we provide genetic management recommendations to inform a population reinforcement of the declining Egyptian Vulture population in the Balkans. Specifically, we examined whether the number of released individuals is sufficient to prevent genetic diversity loss due to random genetic drift and what the origin of the individuals should be that comprise the captive breeding pool. To this aim, we estimated and assessed genetic diversity levels and genetic structure of Egyptian Vulture populations across much of the species’ range using both neutral and non-neutral candidate loci involved in migration. We then evaluated the effects of the currently proposed population management scheme and candidate source populations on retaining allelic diversity. Our results show low differentiation values among populations and absence of genetic structure which point to past high gene flow. Furthermore, there was no predicted significant impact of different source populations on the genetic diversity of the recipient Balkan population. We also found that the declining Egyptian Vulture population in the Balkans still retains high levels of genetic diversity and therefore genetic diversity restoration is not currently needed. However, without any management, diversity is likely to decrease fast because of increased genetic drift as the population size continues to decline. Population reinforcement with nine birds per year for 20 years would provide sufficient demographic support for the population to retain > 85% of rare allelic diversity. Birds originating from the Balkans would ensure ecological and behavioral similarity and thus would be the best option for reinforcement. Nevertheless, our results demonstrate that to prevent further population contraction and loss of adaptive alleles, releasing individuals of different origin would also be appropriate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)677-688
Number of pages12
JournalJournal fur Ornithologie
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2023


  • Captive-breeding
  • Conservation translocation
  • Egyptian vulture
  • Neophron percnopterus
  • Non-neutral markers
  • Population supplementation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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