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BMC Evol Biol. 2010 Feb 2;10:33. doi: 10.1186/1471-2148-10-33.

Trapped in the extinction vortex? Strong genetic effects in a declining vertebrate population.

Author information

  • 1Department of Zoology, University of Gothenburg, Box 463, Gothenburg 40530, Sweden. donald.blomqvist@zool.gu.se

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Inbreeding and loss of genetic diversity are expected to increase the extinction risk of small populations, but detailed tests in natural populations are scarce. We combine long-term population and fitness data with those from two types of molecular markers to examine the role of genetic effects in a declining metapopulation of southern dunlins Calidris alpina schinzii, an endangered shorebird.

RESULTS:

The decline is associated with increased pairings between related individuals, including close inbreeding (as revealed by both field observations of parentage and molecular markers). Furthermore, reduced genetic diversity seems to affect individual fitness at several life stages. Higher genetic similarity between mates correlates negatively with the pair's hatching success. Moreover, offspring produced by related parents are more homozygous and suffer from increased mortality during embryonic development and possibly also after hatching.

CONCLUSIONS:

Our results demonstrate strong genetic effects in a rapidly declining population, emphasizing the importance of genetic factors for the persistence of small populations.

PMID:
20122269
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2824661
Free PMC Article
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