Lethals in finite populations

Philip W. Hedrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


It has been assumed, based on theoretical studies, that lethals with the level of dominance estimated from experimental studies would have an allele frequency that is virtually independent of effective population size. However, here it is shown numerically that the expected frequency of lethals with low levels of dominance is also dependent on finite population size, although not as much as completely recessive lethals. This finding is significant in determining the standing level of inbreeding depression and the consequent potential for the evolution of self-fertilization. In addition, the architecture of genetic variation influencing inbreeding depression in populations with a history of small size may be of important consequence in endangered species. Finally, it is shown that the loss of lethal genetic variation often occurs much more quickly than the regeneration of lethal variation by mutation. This asymmetry may result in a lower standing genetic variation for inbreeding depression than expected from mutation rates and contemporary population size data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)654-657
Number of pages4
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2002


  • Conservation genetics
  • Evolution of selfing
  • Genetic drift
  • Inbreeding depression
  • Mutation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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