Inbreeding and extinction: The effect of environmental stress and lineage


Human activities are simultaneously decreasing the size of wildlife populations (causing inbreeding) and increasing the level of stress that wildlife populations must face. Inbreeding reduces population fitness and increases extinction risk. However, very little information on the impact of stressful environments on extinction risk under inbreeding is available. We evaluated the impact of full sib inbreeding on extinction risk, using Drosophila melanogaster, in a benign and three stressful environments. The three stressful environments involved the addition to the medium of copper sulfate, methanol or alternating copper sulfate and methanol. There were 128 replicate populations for each of the four treatments. Under inbreeding, extinction rates were significantly higher in all three stressful environments compared with the benign environment. The percent extinct at generation eight (F = 0.826) for the four treatments were: 62.5% in the benign environment, 75.8% in the copper sulfate environment, 82.8% in the methanol environment, and 83.6% in the variable stress environment. However, the extinction rate in the variable stress environment did not differ significantly from the constant stress environments. Highly significant differences, among lineages, in extinction risk were detected. The results of this study indicate that wild populations are more vulnerable to inbreeding than indicated by extrapolation from captive environments.



Document Type





Drosophila melanogaster, Environmental stress, Extinction, Inbreeding depression, Lineage

Publication Date


Journal Title

Conservation Genetics