Genetic load in subdivided populations: interactions between the migration rate, the size and the number of subpopulations

Heredity (Edinb). 2006 Jan;96(1):69-78. doi: 10.1038/sj.hdy.6800762.


We assess the relative importance of migration rate, size and number of subpopulations on the genetic load of subdivided populations. Using diffusion approximations, we show that in most cases subdivision has detrimental effects on fitness. Moreover, our results suggest that fitness increases with subpopulation size, so that for the same total population size, genetic load is relatively lower when there are a small number of large subpopulations. Using elasticity analysis, we show that the size of the subpopulations appears to be the parameter that most strongly determines genetic load. interconnecting subpopulations via migration would also be of importance for population fitness when subpopulations are small and gene flow is low. Interestingly, the number of subpopulations has minor influence on genetic load except for the case of both very slightly deleterious mutations and small subpopulations. Elasticities decrease as the magnitude of deleterious effects increases. In other words, population structure does not matter for very deleterious alleles, but strongly affects fitness for slightly deleterious alleles.

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Emigration and Immigration*
  • Genetic Load*
  • Genetics, Population
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Population Dynamics*
  • Reproduction
  • Selection, Genetic