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Trends Ecol Evol. 2004 Sep;19(9):489-96.

The alluring simplicity and complex reality of genetic rescue.

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  • 1Laboratoire d'Ecologie Alpine, Génomique des Populations et Biodiversité, CNRS UMR 5553, Université Joseph Fourier, BP 53, 38041 Grenoble, Cedex 09, France.


A series of important new theoretical, experimental and observational studies demonstrate that just a few immigrants can have positive immediate impacts on the evolutionary trajectory of local populations. In many cases, a low level of immigration into small populations has produced fitness benefits that are greater than those predicted by theoretical models, resulting in what has been termed 'genetic rescue'. However, the opposite result (reduced fitness) can also be associated with immigration of genetically divergent individuals. Central to our understanding of genetic rescue are complex interactions among fundamental concepts in evolutionary and population biology, including both genetic and non-genetic (environmental, behavioral and demographic) factors. Developing testable models to predict when genetic rescue is likely to occur is a daunting challenge that will require carefully controlled, multi-generation experiments as well as creative use of information from natural 'experiments'.


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