Inbreeding depression critically influences both mating system evolution and the persistence of small populations prone to accumulate mutations. Under some circumstances, however, inbreeding will tend to purge populations of enough deleterious recessive mutations to reduce inbreeding depression (ID). The extent of purging depends on many population and genetic factors, making it impossible to make universal predictions. We review 52 studies that compare levels of ID among species, populations, and lineages inferred to differ in inbreeding history. Fourteen of 34 studies comparing ID among populations and species found significant evidence for purging. Within populations, many studies report among-family variation in ID, and 6 of 18 studies found evidence for purging among lineages. Regression analyses suggest that purging is most likely to ameliorate ID for early traits (6 studies), but these declines are typically modest (5–10%). Meta-analyses of results from 45 populations in 11 studies reveal no significant overall evidence for purging, but rather the opposite tendency, for more selfing populations to experience higher ID for early traits. The likelihood of finding purging does not vary systematically with experimental design or whether early or late traits are considered. Perennials are somewhat less likely to show purging than annuals (2 of 10 vs. 7 of 14). We conclude that although these results doubtless reflect variation in population and genetic parameters, they also suggest that purging is an inconsistent force within populations. Such results also imply that attempts to deliberately reduce the load via inbreeding in captive rearing programs may be misguided. Future studies should examine male and female fitness traits over the entire life cycle, estimate mating histories at all levels (i.e. population and families within populations), report data necessary for meta-analysis, and statistically test for purging of genetic loads.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Review Article
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error