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Conserv Biol. 2010 Dec;24(6):1617-25. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2010.01549.x.

Inbreeding depression accumulation across life-history stages of the endangered Takahe.

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Department of Zoology, University of Otago, P.O. Box 56, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand.


Studies evaluating the impact of inbreeding depression on population viability of threatened species tend to focus on the effects of inbreeding at a single life-history stage (e.g., juvenile survival). We examined the effects of inbreeding across the full life-history continuum, from survival up to adulthood, to subsequent reproductive success, and to the recruitment of second-generation offspring, in wild Takahe ( Porphyrio hochstetteri ) by analyzing pedigree and fitness data collected over 21 breeding seasons. Although the effect size of inbreeding at individual life-history stages was small, inbreeding depression accumulated across multiple life-history stages and ultimately reduced long-term fitness (i.e., successful recruitment of second-generation offspring). The estimated total lethal equivalents (2B) summed across all life-history stages were substantial (16.05, 95% CI 0.08-90.8) and equivalent to an 88% reduction in recruitment of second-generation offspring for closely related pairs (e.g., sib-sib pairings) relative to unrelated pairs (according to the pedigree). A history of small population size in the Takahe could have contributed to partial purging of the genetic load and the low level of inbreeding depression detected at each single life-history stage. Nevertheless, our results indicate that such "purged" populations can still exhibit substantial inbreeding depression, especially when small but negative fitness effects accumulate across the species' life history. Because inbreeding depression can ultimately affect population viability of small, isolated populations, our results illustrate the importance of measuring the effects of inbreeding across the full life-history continuum.

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