conservation genetics gets a textbook

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  • TRENDS in Genetics Vol.18 No.11 November 2002594 Forum

    Brian Charlesworth provides an excellentshort review of sex-chromosomeevolution, touching on a number of issuesotherwise neglected in the symposium.

    The volume ends with a wish-list ofquestions for the future, proposed by eachparticipant in turn. Not surprisingly, half of them want to know how SRY doeswhat it does, but another common themeis a desire for more and better phenotypicscreening, and exploitation of forwardgenetic screens in mice. Microarrayapproaches (described by Koopman),although hugely valuable, are notexpected to be enough to solve theproblems. Many anomalies of humansexual development remain enigmatic:only about 25% of sex-reversed patientsare currently explicable in molecularterms (Eric Vilain). This fact alone shows how much remains to be discoveredin the realm of mammalian sexdetermination, despite the advancesreviewed in this useful and timelysymposium.

    Jonathan HodgkinGenetics Unit, Department of Biochemistry,University of Oxford, Oxford, UK OX1 3QU.e-mail:

    Reference1 Matsuda, M. et al. (2002) DMY is a Y-specific DM

    domain gene required for male development inthe medaka fish. Nature 417, 559563

    Conservation geneticsgets a textbook

    An Introduction to Conservation Geneticsby R. Frankham, J.D. Ballou andD.A. BriscoeCambridge University Press, 2002.US$50/34.95 pbk (xiii + 617 pages) ISBN 0521639859

    Does conservationgenetics matter inthe effort to savethe Earthsbiodiversity? Some of the majorconservationorganizations dontthink so and wouldrather focus on

    species inventories wholly ignorant of the ecological, evolutionary and genetic

    processes that are inherent inmaintaining natural populations. The new text by Frankham, Ballou andBriscoe could help to convince some thatgenetics does matter and that there is aneed to preserve not only the pattern ofbiodiversity, but also the processes thatproduce and maintain it.

    ...genetics does matter and...there is a needto preserve not only the pattern ofbiodiversity, but also the processes thatproduce and maintain it.

    The past three decades have seen thegenesis and dramatic expansion ofconservation genetics. Although journalsnow bulge at the seams with bothempirical and theoretical papers, andseveral edited volumes have appeareddetailing case studies and techniques,there has been no comprehensive textbookdevoted exclusively to the field. Thus, An Introduction to Conservation Geneticsfills an empty niche and should provide anice foundation for courses inconservation genetics.

    My initial reaction was that theauthors were trying a bit too hard to reach the nave reader, but after theintroductory chapters the book finds itsstride and does a good job covering topicsfrom quantitative genetics to naturalselection in small populations. One of themore notable attributes of the textbook isthe attention the authors have given tothe recent literature, with many of theexamples and case studies taken from thelast two years a commendable feat for abook of over 600 pages.

    The book is subdivided into threesections. The first, comprising sevenchapters, provides a thorough overview ofthe evolutionary genetics of naturalpopulations. Although much of thismaterial can be found in any introductorygenetics text, the authors do a good job ofproviding case studies from a conservationperspective. For example, thefundamentals of genotypeenvironmentinteractions are first described, then they are discussed in the context oftranslocating individuals into newhabitats. In a similar fashion,heritabilities are defined, followed byexamples demonstrating how they arecalculated in natural populations ofvarious endangered species.

    The second section of the book isentirely devoted to the effects of small

    population size on genetic diversity and itscauses. These five chapters emphasize theclassic themes of conservation genetics problems associated with smallpopulations, inbreeding, habitatfragmentation and the challenges ofretaining evolutionary potential withinfinite populations.

    The final section entitled From Theoryto Practiceattempts to synthesize some ofthe major issues in conservation genetics.Rather than focusing on the moreubiquitous, but fundamentally flawed,evolutionary significant units (ESU) anapproach based solely on neutral geneticvariation I was pleased to see inclusionof a recent treatment of conservation unitsemphasizing the importance of adaptivevariation [1].

    In the past, students interested inconservation genetics would need first toget the basics from the standard geneticstexts, then to head to the primaryliterature. This new text book, intendedfor advanced undergraduates andgraduate students, assumes a basicfoundation in genetics and covers most, ifnot all, of the major topics in conservationgenetics. Students will also appreciateseveral features of the book: importantconcepts are highlighted in a sentence or two at the edge of each page; boxescontain case studies or supplementaryinformation to complement the text; and a concise summary section appears at the end of each chapter, along withproblem sets (with answers in the back),suggested reading for the inspired and acomprehensive glossary. Some mightquibble over the authors strong emphasison some topics, such as small populationsize, but given its breadth and up-to-datetreatment of the literature, the text shouldbe of considerable value to studentsinterested in conservation genetics and to the professional who needs acomplete reference.

    Thomas B. SmithDept of Organismic Biology, Ecology, and Evolution, and Center for TropicalResearch, Institute of the Environment,University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1606, USA.e-mail:

    Reference1 Crandall, K.A. et al. (2000) Considering

    evolutionary processes in conservation biology: an alternative to evolutionary significant units.Trends Ecol. Evol. 15, 290295 0168-9525/02/$ see front matter 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.