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Severe inbreeding, increased mutation load, and gene loss-of-function in the critically endangered Devil’s Hole pupfish

Citation

Tian, David; Patton, Austin; Turner, Bruce; Martin, Christopher (2022), Severe inbreeding, increased mutation load, and gene loss-of-function in the critically endangered Devil’s Hole pupfish, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.6078/D1ND9Q

Abstract

Small populations with limited range are often threatened by inbreeding and reduced genetic diversity, which can reduce fitness and exacerbate population decline. One of the most extreme natural examples is the Devil’s Hole pupfish (Cyprinodon diabolis), an iconic and critically endangered species with the smallest known range of any vertebrate. This species has experienced severe declines in population size over the last thirty years and suffered major bottlenecks in 2007 and 2013, when the population shrunk to 38 and 35 individuals, respectively. Here we analyzed 30 resequenced genomes of desert pupfishes from Death Valley, Ash Meadows, and surrounding areas to examine the genomic consequences of small population size. We found extremely high levels of inbreeding (FROH=0.34–0.81) and an increased amount of potentially deleterious genetic variation in the Devil’s Hole pupfish as compared to other species, including unique, fixed loss-of-function alleles and deletions in genes associated with sperm motility and hypoxia. Additionally, we successfully resequenced a formalin-fixed museum specimen from 1980 and found that the population was already highly inbred prior to recent known bottlenecks. We thus document severe inbreeding and increased mutation load in the Devil’s Hole pupfish and identify candidate deleterious variants to inform management of this conservation icon.

Funding

National Science Foundation, Award: GRFP DGE 1752814

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, Award: R01 DE027052

National Science Foundation, Award: DEB 1749764