Initial Founders of Captive Populations are Genetically Representative of Natural Populations in Critically Endangered Dusky Gopher Frogs, Lithobates sevosus

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Stephen RichterORCID iD icon


Biological Sciences

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The rapid rate of decline in amphibian populations has urged many researchers and conservationists to establish captive, or ex situ, populations. Such populations are guarded against effects of habitat loss and degradation, and if actively managed, can serve as a reservoir for rare alleles that might be lost in the wild. Without proper management, ex situ population sizes can dwindle and will no longer perform this function. The dusky gopher frog, Lithobates sevosus, is a critically endangered species, imperiled by habitat loss and population isolation. To assist in recovery of the species and prevent further genetic erosion, a captive breeding program was initiated. We investigated how well natural genetic variation was captured within the ex situ population and determined relatedness within each ex situ population. We genotyped individuals from two natural populations and two founding, captive populations to compare metrics of genetic variation and relatedness. The data show the initial founder populations are genetically representative of the natural populations, although variation is low in each, and that relatedness values are similar. Therefore, founding captive populations were successful at capturing genetic variation in the wild. Future research should continue to compare genetic variation of captive and natural populations to monitor efficacy of their management programs.

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