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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1997 Nov 25;94(24):13034-9.

Rapid decline of fitness in panmictic populations of Drosophila melanogaster maintained under relaxed natural selection.

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Section of Ecology and Systematics, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


The parameters of the spontaneous deleterious mutation process remain poorly known, despite their importance. Here, we report the results of a mutation accumulation experiment performed on panmictic populations of Drosophila melanogaster without any genetic manipulations. Two experimental populations were kept for 30 generations under relaxed natural selection. Each generation, 100 pairs were formed randomly, and every fecund pair contributed a son and a daughter to the next generation. Comparison with two controls, one cryopreserved and the other kept as the experimental populations but with long generation time, showed that the number of surviving offspring per female declined by 0.2% and 2.0% per generation under benign and harsh, competitive conditions, respectively. Thus, the mutational pressure on fitness may be strong and depends critically on the conditions under which fitness is assayed.

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