Sexual selection counteracts extinction of small populations of the bulb mites

Evolution. 2010 May;64(5):1283-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2009.00905.x. Epub 2009 Nov 20.


Genetic drift in small populations can increase frequency of deleterious recessives and consequently lead to inbreeding depression and population extinction. On the other hand, as homozygosity at deleterious recessives increases, they should be purged from populations more effectively by selection. Sexual selection has been postulated to strengthen selection against deleterious mutations, and should thus decrease extinction rate and intensify purging of inbreeding depression. We tested these predictions in the bulb mite Rhizoglyphus robini. We created 100 replicate lines of small populations (five males and five females) and in half of them experimentally removed sexual selection by enforcing monogamy. The lines were propagated for eight generations and then assayed for purging of inbreeding depression. We found that proportion of lines which went extinct was lower with sexual selection than without. We also found evidence for purging of inbreeding depression in the lines with sexual selection, but not in lines without sexual selection. Our results suggest that purging of inbreeding depression was more effective against mutations with relatively large deleterious effects. Thus, although our data clearly indicate a positive impact of sexual selection on short-term survival of bottlenecked populations, long-term consequences are less clear as they may be negatively impacted by accumulation of deleterious mutations of small effect.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Extinction, Biological*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mites / genetics
  • Mites / physiology*
  • Selection, Genetic*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal*