Multilocus heterozygosity and inbreeding depression in an insular house sparrow metapopulation

Authors

  • HENRIK JENSEN,

    1. Centre for Conservation Biology, Department of Biology, Realfagbygget, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NO-7491 Trondheim, Norway
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  • ERLEND MYRE BREMSET,

    1. Centre for Conservation Biology, Department of Biology, Realfagbygget, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NO-7491 Trondheim, Norway
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  • THOR HARALD RINGSBY,

    1. Centre for Conservation Biology, Department of Biology, Realfagbygget, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NO-7491 Trondheim, Norway
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  • BERNT-ERIK SÆTHER

    1. Centre for Conservation Biology, Department of Biology, Realfagbygget, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NO-7491 Trondheim, Norway
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Henrik Jensen, Fax: ++47 73596100; E-mail: henrik.jensen@bio.ntnu.no

Abstract

Inbreeding causes reduction of genetic variability that may have severe fitness consequences. In spite of its potentially huge impact on viability and evolutionary processes especially in small populations, quantitative demonstrations of genetic and demographic effects of inbreeding in natural populations are few. Here, we examine the relationship between individual inbreeding coefficients (F) and individual standardized multilocus heterozygosity (H) in an insular metapopulation of house sparrows (Passer domesticus) in northern Norway in order to evaluate whether H is a good predictor for F. We then relate variation in fitness (i.e. the probability of surviving from fledging to recruitment) to F and H, which enables us to examine whether inbreeding depression is associated with a reduction in genetic variability. The average level of inbreeding in the house sparrow metapopulation was high, and there was large inter-individual variation in F. As expected, standardized multilocus heterozygosity decreased with the level of inbreeding. The probability of recruitment was significantly negatively related to F, and, accordingly, increased with H. However, H explained no significant additional variation in recruitment rate than was explained by F. This suggests that H is a good predictor for F in this metapopulation, and that an increase in F is likely to be associated with a general increase in the level of homozygosity on loci across the genome, which has severe fitness consequences.

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