Published in Series in Ornithology: Condors in the 21st Century, Volume 2, January 1, 2007, pages 35-55.
Copyright © 2007 American Ornithologists' Union.
The California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus) has recently survived a severe population bottleneck. The entire population was reduced to 27 individuals in 1982. The number of genetic founders was even smaller. We obtained 482 base pairs of DNA sequence from the mitochondrial control region (CR) of all founder individuals that potentially represented unique maternal haplotypes. Four unique haplotypes were present in the genetic founders. One of these haplotypes is unique to Topatopa, a male brought into captivity in 1967, whose haplotype will not persist in the future population. Haplotype diversity (h) was reduced by 25% between the founder population and our census of the 2002 population. Nucleotide diversity (θ) did not vary significantly between the founders and the current population. Our results provide insights into condor genetics. First, where recessive deleterious alleles have been expressed in progeny (e.g., chondrodystrophy) the breeding pair shares the same mitochondrial haplotype. Second, we identifi ed the presence of a nuclear copy of the mitochondrial control region and provide condor specific primer sequences to preferentially amplify DNA of mitochondrial origin. Third, we confirm low levels of genetic diversity in the captive population as suggested by previous research. Forth, we question whether the low level of diversity is a consequence of the 20th century bottleneck, or if diversity has been historically low over a much longer time scale.