Inbreeding and fitness in captive populations: Lessons from Drosophila

Philip S. Miller, Philip W. Hedrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


The avoidance of inbreeding is a primary goal of endangered species population management. In order to fully understand the effects of inbreeding on the fitness of natural and captive populations, it is necessary to consider fitness components which span the entire life cycle of the organism. Using Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism for conservation genetics studies, we constructed 18 experimental lines derived from wild‐type stocks which were homozygous for chromosome 2 (this chromosome constitutes 38% of the genome or is equivalent to F = 0.38). For six of these lines which exhibited a reduced homozygous fitness, we estimated the relative values of fitness components operating at both the juvenile stage (pre‐adult viability) and adult stage (female fecundity and male‐mating ability) of the life cycle. Males in these lines showed a markedly reduced mating ability, while viability and female fecundity were much less affected. Equilibrium values of the wild‐type chromosomes in these lines were accurately predicted using a model that incorporated into it these independently estimated fitness components. These results emphasize the importance of studying all fitness components directly to determine overall fitness. A reduced mating ability among inbred males of a captive population can have serious consequences for its future sustainability, and can further jeopardize reintroduction efforts; consequently, a program to carefully monitor the reproductive success of individual males, as well as other fitness components, is recommended. © 1993 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)333-351
Number of pages19
JournalZoo Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1993


  • captive breeding
  • genetic variation
  • male‐mating ability
  • reintroduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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