Date Approved


Graduate Degree Type


Degree Name

Biology (M.S.)

Degree Program


First Advisor

Jodee Hunt

Second Advisor

Charlyn Partridge

Third Advisor

Cynthia Thompson

Academic Year



As a crucial component of biodiversity, genetic diversity contributes to variability among individuals, allowing populations of endangered species to be resilient in the face of changing environmental conditions. Zoological institutions have become a cornerstone of conservation efforts and a refuge for endangered species given threats imposed on wild populations by climate change, habitat fragmentation and degradation, and overexploitation. Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) are an endangered species experiencing drastic population decline in the wild, yet are common residents in zoos and wildlife sanctuaries. To sustain long-term, genetically viable populations of species of concern, zoos use studbooks and paternity testing to identify individuals, their movements, and relatedness. Lack of information or erroneous assumptions, however, can lead to mismanagement of individuals, jeopardizing the genetic integrity within ex situ populations. Here, we analyzed (1) studbook records to identify relatedness based on pedigree alone, then (2) evaluated eight polymorphic microsatellite loci across a captive chimpanzee population in Grand Rapids, Michigan to (3) calculate relatedness (r) and parentage. Our molecular-based analysis confirmed parentage and relatedness estimates from PMx pedigree analysis. While all analyses identified a mother-offspring pair, they also revealed a lack of relatedness between most individuals, an important trait for a sustainable population. Minimal relatedness in a population consisting of mainly founders is ideal, as it provides a greater genetic variability. Future research should include additional loci and individuals to gain a better understanding of this population’s genetic diversity, and aid other zoos in integrating molecular-based approaches to conservation management.