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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Feb 27;98(5):2928-33. Epub 2001 Feb 20.

Metapopulation extinction caused by mutation accumulation.

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  • 1Ecology and Evolution, Department of Biology, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403, USA.


Theory suggests that the risk of extinction by mutation accumulation can be comparable to that by environmental stochasticity for an isolated population smaller than a few thousand individuals. Here we show that metapopulation structure, habitat loss or fragmentation, and environmental stochasticity can be expected to greatly accelerate the accumulation of mildly deleterious mutations, lowering the genetic effective size to such a degree that even large metapopulations may be at risk of extinction. Because of mutation accumulation, viable metapopulations may need to be far larger and better connected than would be required under just stochastic demography.

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