Note: Because this is an ongoing series, viewers will not receive a certificate of completion.
Skill Level Intermediate
- [Narrator] To thrive, animals require a diverse gene pool. In the wild where animals can travel far distances and weaker animals are eliminated, achieving genetic diversity is rather easy. In zoos, where animals are kept in a smaller area with similar animals and rarely have to worry about survival, genetic diversity is much more elusive. That's zoos throughout the world work together to minimize inbreeding, in an effort to keep animal populations healthy. How do they do this? Well it's a bit like online dating, but instead of having animals swiping left and right on their tablets, zoologists act as matchmakers, or perhaps they're like loving parents looking to develop the best possible arranged marriages. In an effort to create a new generation of healthy animals, zoologists utilize a combination of genetics and statistics to find a winning combination of animal mates. Data is collected from hundreds of species and thousands of animals in captivity all over the world. Just like an online dating platform for humans, zoologists have data profiles for every animal. Each animal's profile might contain data on age, social behaviors, family lineage, genetic markers, and even where they live. Yes, since zoo animals have a tough time flying commercial, they like to avoid long distance relationships. There are so many variables for each species and each individual animal has its own dataset. Therefore zoologists rely on statistically driven software to help them identify genetically diverse matches that fit additional criteria like age and location. These statistical models help zoologists rank the best mates for any one animal. With so many animals and so many zoos in such different locations, finding mating solutions that are optimal can be difficult and even then you might find the ideal genetic match, but it doesn't mean they'll actually want to mate. Some offspring will be genetically diverse, some animals might be such good breeders that they have too many offspring and thus they may create diversity issues in the next generation. Thankfully, our zoos are staffed by well intentioned zoologists that understand the value of a statistical education in creating healthy and genetically diverse animal populations.