Nav: Home

Breeding programs should incorporate mate choice

September 24, 2002

The breeding programs widely used to supplement fisheries and conserve endangered species may be flawed. The problem is that while animals usually choose their mates in the wild, they typically do not get a choice when bred in captivity. The benefits of mate choice can include increased resistance to disease among offspring, and new work calls for incorporating mate choice into captive breeding programs.

"Circumventing mate choice is likely to have negative consequences for the genetics of a population," says Claus Wedekind of the University of Edinburgh in the UK in the October issue of Conservation Biology. "Males often are not equal with respect to genetic quality and female mate choice may be taking this into account."

Wedekind and two co-authors had previously shown that mate choice can increase the survival of young whitefish, which are bred in hatcheries. Like many fish species, during the breeding season male whitefish develop hundreds ornamental structures called breeding tubercles all over their bodies. Although these tiny, colorless tubercles may look insignificant, they are a powerful predictor of how well a male's young will survive: 12% more embryos survived a bacterial epidemic (Pseudomonas fluorescens) when their fathers had larger breeding tubercles (tubercle size ranged from about 50 to 400 microns).

Currently, most breeding programs for small populations focus on preserving genetic variation by minimizing inbreeding. Wedekind argues that as a population grows, managers should also start preserving genetic quality by incorporating mate choice into the breeding program. However, increasing genetic quality is likely to reduce genetic variation, which means managers will need to work out the optimal compromise between the two goals, he says.

Ways to incorporate mate choice into breeding programs include allowing:
    -- free mate choice for monogamous species,
    -- limited mate choice either by presenting selected males to a female or by using mate-preference tests such as presenting odor sample from selected males, and
    -- free mate choice for large populations of non-monogamous species.
That said, Wedekind cautions that there are cases when free mate choice should not be allowed, such as for small populations of polygamous species.

Managers should evaluate the benefits and risks of mate choice on a case by case basis. "Any supportive breeding program, and even management of small and endangered animal populations, may benefit from incorporating knowledge about the natural breeding system, mate choice, and variance in heritable viability," says Wedekind.
For PDFs of papers, contact Robin Meadows:;

To register for media access to the TOC, back issues of our journal, and our expert directory:

For more information about the Society for Conservation Biology:

Society for Conservation Biology

Related Mate Choice Articles:

Study reveals first recording of cuttlefish fighting over a mate in the wild
The whole arsenal of cuttlefish coloration, postures and aggression played out during a chance observation now described in a study in the American Naturalist.
Impacts of school choice on segregation
Diversity in schools is important for students' experiences and outcomes in schools and beyond, reducing prejudices and ensuring the likelihood of living and working in integrated environments as adults.
Want to help your mate beat the blues? Show them the love
The more depressed your romantic partner may be, the more love you should give them, according to new University of Alberta research.
Genetic opposites attract when chimpanzees choose a mate
Duke University researchers find that chimpanzees are more likely to reproduce with mates whose genetic makeup most differs from their own.
Metaphoring the police: It's all about the right choice of word
A well-chosen metaphor does wonders to explain concepts, to persuade and to ensure buy-in into any given matter.
Wives with a 'soul mate' view of marriage are less likely to volunteer, study finds
Wives who have a romantic view of marriage are less likely to do volunteer work, leading their husbands to volunteer less as well.
What your choice of smartphone says about you
Choice of smartphone provides valuable information about its owner. This is one of the findings of a doctoral study conducted by Heather Shaw, from University of Lincoln's School of Psychology.
CU Boulder study: Mate choices of barn swallows tied to diverging appearances
If you are a male barn swallow in the United States or the Mediterranean with dark red breast feathers, you're apt to wow potential mates.
How to decide if watchful waiting is the right choice
A new tool helps remove the emotion around choosing the right approach for prostate cancer.
Air power now weapon of choice
Air power has become the weapon of choice for Western politicians because it causes maximum destruction with the minimum of commitment, according to new research from a University of Exeter academic.

Related Mate Choice Reading:

Mate Choice
by Patrick Bateson (Editor)

Animals may be careful in their choice of mates for a variety of reasons. The ideal mate may have to hold valuable resources as well as being highly fertile or fecund. As likely as not, it should be neither too closely related nor too distantly related, and it should be maximally attractive. All these aspects of a member of the opposite sex may influence how many descendants the pair could produce, but the importance of each will usually depend on the sex and the species of the individual making the choice. This book brings together modern thinking on the various functions of mate choice and... View Details

The Mates’ Choice (Omegas’ Destined Alpha 3): MMM Alpha/Omega Mpreg Romance

Three mates. Three difficult pasts. And one Omega’s family who won’t give up on their plans for him…

I marked Zeke! Of all the things I thought could happen this weekend, this wasn’t one I’d expected. I marked Zeke, Zeke marked Wes.
We’re mates. It’s official. But why does this feel like just the start of our problems…

Getting marked by Nathan and marking Wes plunged me into a darkness so deep I’ve not experienced before. It doesn’t help that my first heat since my birthday is coming up.
Especially... View Details

The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin's Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World - and Us
by Richard O. Prum (Author)


A major reimagining of how evolutionary forces work, revealing how mating preferences—what Darwin termed "the taste for the beautiful"—create the extraordinary range of ornament in the animal world.

In the great halls of science, dogma holds that Darwin's theory of natural selection explains every branch on the tree of life: which species thrive, which wither away to extinction, and what features each evolves. But can... View Details

Why Men Love Bitches: From Doormat to Dreamgirl―A Woman's Guide to Holding Her Own in a Relationship
by Sherry Argov (Author)

Do you feel like you are too nice? Sherry Argov's Why Men Love Bitches delivers a unique perspective as to why men are attracted to a strong woman who stands up for herself. With saucy detail on every page, this no-nonsense guide reveals why a strong woman is much more desirable than a "yes woman" who routinely sacrifices herself. The author provides compelling answers to the tough questions women often ask: Why are men so romantic in the beginning and why do they change? Why do men take nice girls for granted? Why does a man respect a woman when she stands up for herself? Full of... View Details

Smart Women/Foolish Choices: Finding the Right Men Avoiding the Wrong Ones (Signet)
by Connell Cowan (Author), Melvyn Kinder (Author)

Smart Women/Foolish Choices: Finding the Right Men Avoiding the Wrong Ones (Signet) View Details

Atlas of Human Anatomy: Including Student Consult Interactive Ancillaries and Guides, 6e (Netter Basic Science)
by Frank H. Netter MD (Author)

The gold standard of excellence for 25 years, Frank H. Netter, MD’s Atlas of Human Anatomy offers unsurpassed depictions of the human body in clear, brilliant detail – all from a clinician’s perspective. With its emphasis on anatomic relationships and clinically relevant views, Dr. Netter’s work provides a coherent, lasting visual vocabulary for understanding anatomy and how it applies to medicine today.

View anatomy from a clinical perspective with hundreds of exquisite, hand-painted illustrations created by pre-eminent medical illustrator Frank H.... View Details

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

The Consequences Of Racism
What does it mean to be judged before you walk through the door? What are the consequences? This week, TED speakers delve into the ways racism impacts our lives, from education, to health, to safety. Guests include poet and writer Clint Smith, writer and activist Miriam Zoila Pérez, educator Dena Simmons, and former prosecutor Adam Foss.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#465 How The Nose Knows
We've all got a nose but how does it work? Why do we like some smells and not others, and why can we all agree that some smells are good and some smells are bad, while others are dependant on personal or cultural preferences? We speak with Asifa Majid, Professor of Language, Communication and Cultural Cognition at Radboud University, about the intersection of culture, language, and smell. And we level up on our olfactory neuroscience with University of Pennsylvania Professor Jay Gottfried.