The San Diego Zoo's Conservation and Research for Endangered Species: Projects

Genome Studies for Conservation of the California Condor


The California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) is among the first endangered species under captive management for which a genetic disease of chondrodystrophy has been confirmed. Adoption of any of the alternative scenarios for management of the trait, including no management, could have fundamental consequences for population demography and recovery (Ralls et al., 2000). An advantage of delaying selection against the putative allele is that this strategy would allow for the development of a diagnostic method to distinguish carriers from non-carriers. Our effort to develop a carrier test would provide the most informed method for management of the potential impacts of chondrodystrophy on both the captive and wild subcomponents of the condor population.

As an extension of previous genetic studies in California condors, efforts undertaken now at CRES to better understand their genetic makeup will serve as a model for other species. Knowledge of the genetic makeup of individuals in small populations will provide a crucial tool for survival management. Tools for genomic investigation are expected to shed new light on the biology of many species, including threatened and endangered species (Ryder, 2005). However, relatively few studies have demonstrated the potential of this approach. We anticipate that our study will serve as one of the landmark examples of the application of genomic investigation technologies to conservation efforts for endangered species.

Since April 2005, a new project on genome research for conservation of the California condor have been carrying out. Initially, our strategy emphasized that the search for the genetic lesion causing hereditable chondrodystrophy would involve: 1) an evaluation of candidate genes and 2) construction of a physical and genetic map of the California condor.

Application of molecular genetic and genomic tools is anticipated to play a conspicuous part in conservation biology and management of wild birds, such as the California condor, an endangered species in which genetic disease may compromise re-population in the wild (Romanov et al., 2006).

Resources for genome-wide research in the California condor:


Rationale for Sequencing Selected BAC Clones of the Genome of the California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus)
Evaluating candidate loci for heritable chondrodystrophy in California condors

Construction of a physical and genetic map of the California condor
California Condor Genetic Studies: Sex Determination, Identification of Clan Structure and Coping with a Genetic Disease

Back to Avian Genetics and Genomics

Wild Animal Park: Condor Ridge
California Condor Recovery Program
Milestones in California Condor Conservation

California Condor Mortality Challenges
Social Development and Reintroduction of California Condors
Studies of Courtship and Parental Care in Reintroduced California Condors in the U.S. and Mexico