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Genetic load and adaptive potential of a recovered avian species that narrowly avoided extinction

Femerling, Georgette, van Oosterhout, Cock, Feng, Shaohong, Bristol, Rachel M., Zhang, Guojie, Groombridge, Jim J., Gilbert, M. Thomas P., Morales, Hernán E. (2023) Genetic load and adaptive potential of a recovered avian species that narrowly avoided extinction. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 40 (12). Article Number msad256. ISSN 0737-4038. (doi:10.1093/molbev/msad256) (KAR id:104084)

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Official URL:
https://doi.org/10.1093/molbev%2Fmsad256

Abstract

High genetic diversity is a good predictor of long-term population viability, yet some species persevere despite having low genetic diversity. Here we study the genomic erosion of the Seychelles paradise flycatcher (Terpsiphone corvina), a species that narrowly avoided extinction after having declined to 28 individuals in the 1960s. The species recovered unassisted to over 250 individuals in the 1990s and was downlisted from Critically Endangered to Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List in 2020. By comparing historical, pre-bottleneck (130+ years old) and modern genomes, we uncovered a 10-fold loss of genetic diversity. Highly deleterious mutations were partly purged during the bottleneck, but mildly deleterious mutations accumulated. The genome shows signs of historical inbreeding during the bottleneck in the 1960s, but low levels of recent inbreeding after demographic recovery. Computer simulations suggest that the species long-term small Ne reduced the masked genetic load and made the species more resilient to inbreeding and extinction. However, the reduction in genetic diversity due to the chronically small Ne and the severe bottleneck is likely to have reduced the species adaptive potential to face environmental change, which together with a higher load, compromises its long-term population viability. Thus, small ancestral Ne offers short-term bottleneck resilience, but hampers long-term adaptability to environmental shifts. In light of rapid global rates of population decline, our work show that species can continue to suffer the effect of their decline even after recovery, highlighting the importance of considering genomic erosion and computer modelling in conservation assessments.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1093/molbev/msad256
Projects: Translocating conservation success and skills-exchange across four Indian Ocean countries, Investing in island biodiversity: restoring the Seychelles Paradise Flycatcher (15-009), A cutting-EDGE approach to saving Seychelles’ evolutionarily distinct biodi
Uncontrolled keywords: genetic load, adaptive potential, extinction, conservation, historical genomics
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history > QH75 Conservation (Biology)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation > DICE (Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology)
Funders: Darwin Initiative (https://ror.org/024hyk965)
Depositing User: Jim Groombridge
Date Deposited: 27 Nov 2023 09:40 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Jan 2024 21:48 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/104084 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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