Loss of fitness due to inbreeding depression in small captive populations of endangered species is widely appreciated. Populations of all sizes may also experience loss in fitness when environmental conditions are ameliorated because deleterious alleles may be rendered neutral and accumulate rapidly. Few data exist, however, to demonstrate loss in fitness due to relaxed selection. Loss of fitness in life‐history traits were compared between LARGE (Ne ≥ 500) and SMALL (Ne = 50) populations of the housefly Musca domestica L that were subjected to curtailed life span at 21 days to remove selection on late‐acting deleterious alleles. During the early part of the life history (≤21 days), the rate of decline in fecundity and progeny production over 24 generations was greater in the small (1.5%) than in the large populations <0.2%), but rate of loss in late‐life fecundity and progeny production (>21 days) was equivalent across populations, consistent with neutral theory, and amounted to 1.7% per generation. This rate of loss due to relaxed selection was equivalent to the rate of loss due to inbreeding in populations with an effective size of 50 individuals. Even if captive populations are kept large to avoid inbreeding, breeding them in benign environments where the forces of natural selection are curtailed may jeopardize the capability of these populations to exist in natural environments within few generations. Zoo Biol 20:145–156, 2001. © 2001 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.
Zoo Biology – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2001
Keywords: ; ;
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