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Genetica. 1988 Feb 29;76(1):53-63.

The founder effect theory: quantitative variation and mdg-1 mobile element polymorphism in experimental populations of Drosophila melanogaster.

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  • 1Laboratoire de Biologie des Populations, Université Claude Bernard Lyon I, Villeurbanne, France.


One of the main points of Mayr's 'founder's principle' is the role played by inbreeding in the first generations after the foundation of a population. To test this role, we studied 10 experimental populations of Drosophila melanogaster, each founded by one brother-sister pair; these sib pairs differed for their values of viability components of their F1 offsprings. The populations so formed were maintained en masse with non-overlapping generations. Under our uniform laboratory environmental conditions, the mean viability and within-family component of variance (measured on wing length) values of the first generations depended on the viability component values of the founders. After about twenty generations, all but one of these populations reached equilibrium values similar to those of the parental population. Moreover, the insertion patterns of the mdg-1 mobile element were analysed in the founded populations by in situ hybridization on polytene chromosomes. The patterns differed between the founded populations. More than forty generations were needed before movements of transposable elements reshaped the genome in a significant way. Although it is classically admitted that inbreeding resulting from founder event ultimately leads to extinction, our results show that once the first generations are over, the founded populations become firmly established and present the characteristics of the parental population.

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