Comparative losses of quantitative and molecular genetic variation in finite populations of Drosophila melanogaster

Genet Res. 2005 Feb;85(1):47-55. doi: 10.1017/s0016672305007342.


Quantitative genetic variation, the main determinant of the ability to evolve, is expected to be lost in small populations, but there are limited data on the effect, and controversy as to whether it is similar to that for near neutral molecular variation. Genetic variation for abdominal and sternopleural bristle numbers and allozyme heterozygosity were estimated in 23 populations of Drosophila melanogaster maintained at effective population sizes of 25, 50, 100, 250 or 500 for 50 generations, as well as in 19 highly inbred populations and the wild outbred base population. Highly significant negative regressions of proportion of initial genetic variation retained on inbreeding due to finite population size were observed for both quantitative characters (b = -0.67 +/- 0.14 and -0.58 +/- 0.11) and allozyme heterozygosity (b = -0.79 +/- 0.10), and the regression coefficients did not differ significantly. Thus, quantitative genetic variation is being lost at a similar rate to molecular genetic variation. However, genetic variation for all traits was lost at rates significantly slower than predicted by neutral theory, most likely due to associative overdominance. Positive, but relatively low correlations were found among the different measures of genetic variation, but their low magnitudes were attributed to large sampling errors, rather than differences in the underlying processes of loss.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Enzymes / genetics*
  • Genes, Insect
  • Genetic Variation
  • Heterozygote
  • Models, Statistical
  • Molecular Biology
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Regression Analysis


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Enzymes