Redefining the Role of Admixture and Genomics in Species Conservation

Bridgett Marie vonHoldt, Kristin E. Brzeski, David S. Wilcove, Linda Y. Rutledge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


The generation of genome-wide sequence data has brought with it both exciting opportunities for conservation and challenges for determining appropriate management practices in the face of complex evolutionary histories. Genomic data can provide deep insight into taxa with complex evolutionary origins, and is a powerful tool for biologists to obtain a more complete view of ancestry. Many policy decisions are encumbered by patterns of gene flow between species that reveal complex evolutionary histories. Here, we review conservation decisions in admixed species and highlight genomics research that demonstrates the commonality of hybridization in wildlife. We encourage a shift toward a web-of-life framework with emphasis on the need to incorporate flexibility in conservation practices by establishing a policy for lineages of admixed ancestry. In particular, we promote a conceptual framework under which hybridization, even extensive hybridization, no longer disqualifies a species from protection; instead, we encourage customized case-by-case management to protect evolutionary potential and maintain processes that sustain ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12371
JournalConservation Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


  • Admixture
  • conservation
  • endangered species
  • genomics
  • hybridization
  • management
  • policy


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