, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 833-843
Date: 21 Sep 2007

Inbreeding, inbreeding depression and extinction

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Inbreeding is unavoidable in small, isolated populations and can cause substantial fitness reductions compared to outbred populations. This loss of fitness has been predicted to elevate extinction risk giving it substantial conservation significance. Inbreeding may result in reduced fitness for two reasons: an increased expression of deleterious recessive alleles (partial dominance hypothesis) or the loss of favourable heterozygote combinations (overdominance hypothesis). Because both these sources of inbreeding depression are dependent upon dominance variance, inbreeding depression is predicted to be greater in life history traits than in morphological traits. In this study we used replicate inbred and control lines of Drosophila simulans to address three questions:1) is inbreeding depression greater in life history than morphological traits? 2) which of the two hypotheses is the major underlying cause of inbreeding depression? 3) does inbreeding elevate population extinction risk? We found that inbreeding depression was significantly greater in life history traits compared to morphological traits, but were unable to find unequivocal support for either the overdominance or partial dominance hypotheses as the genetic basis of inbreeding depression. As predicted, inbred lines had a significantly greater extinction risk.