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Conserv Biol. 2006 Dec;20(6):1768-79.

Prioritization for conservation of northern European cattle breeds based on analysis of microsatellite data.

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  • 1Institute of Biotechnology and Food Research, MTT Agrifood Research Finland, FI-31600 Jokioinen, Finland.


Northern European indigenous cattle breeds are currently endangered and at a risk of becoming extinct. We analyzed variation at 20 microsatellite loci in 23 indigenous, 3 old imported, and 9 modern commercial cattle breeds that are presently distributed in northern Europe. We measured the breeds' allelic richness and heterozygosity, and studied their genetic relationships with a neighbor-joining tree based on the Chord genetic distance matrix. We used the Weitzman approach and the core set diversity measure of Eding et al. (2002) to quantify the contribution of each breed to the maximum amount of genetic diversity and to identify breeds important for the conservation of genetic diversity. We defined 11 breeds as a "safe set" of breeds (not endangered) and estimated a reduction in genetic diversity if all nonsafe (endangered) breeds were lost. We then calculated the increase in genetic diversity by adding one by one each of the nonsafe breeds to the safe set (the safe-set-plus-one approach). The neighbor-joining tree grouped the northern European cattle breeds into Black-and-White type, Baltic Red, and Nordic cattle groups. Väne cattle, Bohus Poll, and Danish Jersey had the highest relative contribution to the maximum amount of genetic diversity when the diversity was quantified by the Weitzman diversity measure. These breeds not only showed phylogenetic distinctiveness but also low within-population variation. When the Eding et al. method was applied, Eastern Finncattle and Lithuanian White Backed cattle contributed most of the genetic variation. If the loss of the nonsafe set of breeds happens, the reduction in genetic diversity would be substantial (72%) based on the Weitzman approach, but relatively small (1.81%) based on the Eding et al. method. The safe set contained only 66% of the observed microsatellite alleles. The safe-set-plus-one approach indicated that Bohus Poll and Väne cattle contributed most to the Weitzman diversity, whereas the Eastern Finncattle contribution was the highest according to the Eding et al. method. Our results indicate that both methods of Weitzman and Eding et al. recognize the importance of local populations as a valuable resource of genetic variation.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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