Estimating relatedness between individuals in general populations with a focus on their use in conservation programs

P.A. Oliehoek, J.J. Windig, J.A.M. van Arendonk, P. Bijma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

115 Citations (Scopus)


Relatedness estimators are widely used in genetic studies, but effects of population structure on performance of estimators, criteria to evaluate estimators, and benefits of using such estimators in conservation programs have to date received little attention. In this article we present new estimators, based on the relationship between coancestry and molecular similarity between individuals, and compare them with existing estimators using Monte Carlo simulation of populations, either panmictic or structured. Estimators were evaluated using statistical criteria and a diversity criterion that minimized relatedness. Results show that ranking of estimators depends on the population structure. An existing estimator based on two-gene and four-gene coefficients of identity performs best in panmictic populations, whereas a new estimator based on coancestry performs best in structured populations. The number of marker alleles and loci did not affect ranking of estimators. Statistical criteria were insufficient to evaluate estimators for their use in conservation programs. The regression coefficient of pedigree relatedness on estimated relatedness (ß2) was substantially lower than unity for all estimators, causing overestimation of the diversity conserved. A simple correction to achieve ß2 = 1 improves both existing and new estimators. Using relatedness estimates with correction considerably increased diversity in structured populations, but did not do so or even decreased diversity in panmictic populations
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)483-496
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • pairwise relatedness
  • molecular markers
  • genetic-variability
  • selection
  • pedigree
  • diversity
  • kinships
  • schemes


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