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Software prevents animal rellie hook ups

AAP logoAAP 10/11/2016 Marnie Banger

Endangered animals might avoid hooking up with their close relatives in captive breeding programs with the help of a new software program.

Swinger, which was created by researchers at Adelaide's Flinders University, can determine how closely related various animals are using an algorithm that compares their DNA markers.

The software aims to identify and increase genetic diversity in breeding programs, especially for wild animals that have multiple partners and whose family lines can be difficult to trace.

"Genetic diversity is important to conserve as it has developed through evolution, making a species what it is now," Flinders University molecular ecology professor Luciano Beheregaray said.

"It allows individuals of that species to survive, reproduce, and adapt to environmental changes."

The software is being offered free online and is first being used on a rare kind of rainbowfish only found in northern Queensland's Running River.

The fish is being swamped out of existence by the illegal introduction of another more common variety.

The University of Canberra's Peter Unmack, who is trying to save the endangered fish, said Swinger had helped him form several ideal breeding groups.

"The breeding groups have been highly successful, producing thousands of fingerlings that we have begun releasing to the wild," he said.

"It is still a work in progress, but it is looking positive."

Flinders University has already been contacted by others interested in exploring the technology, including a turtle centre at the Galapagos Islands.

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