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Low persistence of genetic rescue across generations in the Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus)

Citation

Norén, Karin et al. (2021), Low persistence of genetic rescue across generations in the Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus), Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.hx3ffbgdk

Abstract

Genetic rescue can facilitate the recovery of small and isolated populations suffering from inbreeding depression. Long-term effects are however complex and examples spanning over multiple generations under natural conditions are scarce. The aim of this study was to test for long-term effects of natural genetic rescue in a small population of Scandinavian Arctic foxes (Vulpes lagopus). By combining a genetically verified pedigree covering almost 20 years with a long-term dataset on individual fitness (n=837 individuals), we found no evidence for elevated fitness in immigrant F2 and F3 compared to native inbred foxes. Population inbreeding levels showed a fluctuating increasing trend and emergence of inbreeding within immigrant lineages shortly after immigration. Between 0-5 and 6-9 years post immigration, the average population size decreased by almost 22 % and the average proportion of immigrant ancestry rose from 14 % to 27 %. Y chromosome analysis revealed that two out of three native male lineages were lost from the gene pool, but all founders represented at the time of immigration were still contributing to the population at the end of the study period through female descendants. The results highlight the complexity of genetic rescue and suggest that beneficial effects can be brief. Continuous gene flow may be needed for small and threatened populations to recover and persist in a longer time perspective.

Funding

Formas, Award: 2015-1526

Formas, Award: 2015-1526