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Purifying selection in corvids is less efficient on islands

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Verena E. Kutschera, Jelmer W. Poelstra, Fidel Botero-Castro, Nicolas Dussex, Neil J. Gemmell, Gavin R. Hunt, Michael G. Ritchie, Christian Rutz, R. Axel W. Wiberg, Jochen B.W. Wolf

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Theory predicts that deleterious mutations accumulate more readily in small populations. As a consequence, mutation load is expected to be elevated in species where life-history strategies and geographic or historical contingencies reduce the number of reproducing individuals. Yet, few studies have empirically tested this prediction using genome-wide data in a comparative framework. We collected whole-genome sequencing data for 147 individuals across seven crow species (Corvus spp.). For each species, we estimated the distribution of fitness effects of deleterious mutations and compared it with proxies of the effective population size Ne. Island species with comparatively smaller geographic range sizes had a significantly increased mutation load. These results support the view that small populations have an elevated risk of mutational meltdown, which may contribute to the higher extinction rates observed in island species.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)469-474
Number of pages6
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number2
Early online date21 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020

    Research areas

  • Avian genomics, Comparative analysis, Distribution of fitness effects, Molecular evolution, Mutation load, Selection

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ID: 266390213