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Trends Ecol Evol. 2006 Feb;21(2):55-7. Epub 2005 Dec 13.

Genetic sex determination and extinction.

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  • 1School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA.


Genetic factors can affect the probability of extinction either by increasing the effect of detrimental variants or by decreasing the potential for future adaptive responses. In a recent paper, Zayed and Packer demonstrate that low variation at a specific locus, the complementary sex determination (csd) locus in Hymenoptera (ants, bees and wasps), can result in a sharply increased probability of extinction. Their findings illustrate situations in which there is a feedback process between decreased genetic variation at the csd locus owing to genetic drift and decreased population growth, resulting in an extreme type of extinction vortex for these ecologically important organisms.

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