Pedigree information reveals moderate to high levels of inbreeding and a weak population structure in the endangered Catalonian donkey breed

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The Catalonian donkey is one of the most endangered donkey breeds in the world. At present, five main subpopulations exist: AFRAC, which consists of many genetically connected Catalonian localities; Berga, which consists of a single herd located also in Catalunya but under private management; and three minor non-Catalonian subpopulations (Huesca, Sevilla and Toledo). In this study, we analysed the pedigree information of the Catalonian donkey herdbook to assess the genetic diversity and population structure of the breed. We found that the Catalonian donkey has suffered an important loss of genetic diversity and moderate to high increases of inbreeding because of the abuse of a few individuals in matings. This scenario is mainly characterized by the fact that both the effective number of founders and ancestors for the whole population was 70.6 and 27, respectively, while the equivalent number of founders was 146.5 and the number of ancestors explaining overall genetic variability was 93. In addition, only 14% of animals born between the 1960s and 1970s were significantly represented in the pedigree. Our results also show that subpopulations where breeders exchanged reproductive individuals had low levels of inbreeding and average relatedness. One subpopulation, Berga, was reproductively isolated and showed high levels of inbreeding ( F = 7.22%), with average relatedness (AR = 6.61%) playing an important role in increasing the values of these coefficients in the whole pedigree. Using genealogical F-statistics we have found little evidence of population structuring ( F<sub>ST</sub> = 0.0083) with major genetic differences among non-Catalonian subpopulations.