California Condors have experienced a huge lack of genetic diversity in the last century due to a genetic bottle-necking event that occurred in the 1900's, causing the population to diminish rapidly. A recent study carried out for The Condor: Ornithological Applications has examined 93 Condor specimens from various museums on the west coast that dated between 1825 and 1984, and aimed to analyze how much genetic variation was present before the rapid decline of the Condor population. The DNA that was collected for the study was Mitochondrial DNA. By comparing the diversity that exists today with that of the specimens, researchers determined that approximately 80% of Condor genetic diversity has been lost due to this bottle-necking event.
An unavoidable result that comes out of the population being diminished is that due to low numbers, Condors are forced to breed with an available Condor if they wish to reproduce. The lack of choices results in inbreeding, and inbreeding can create many problems in itself. Most importantly, for the purpose of this study, it prevents the Condors from being able to create a lot of genetic diversity since they are basically passing down the same traits from one generation to the next. Genetic diversity is hugely important because it is what helps these creatures to adapt and sustain life in different environments, thereby creating a larger population. With the help of professionals and by using the capture and release method, it is possible to prevent inbreeding and to work on repopulating this species. Further research and active participation can bring the California Condor back before it is too late, but action needs to be taken.
I believe that it is a very important goal to increase the number of California Condors and to aid them in increasing their genetic diversity. Variation in a population is extremely necessary for the species survival and inbreeding is severely inhibiting this effort. By spreading awareness and working actively with this species, they can definitely improve over time, but actions need to be taken before it is too late. The California Condor is a beautiful creature and it would be a shame to see them wiped off the planet.
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