Conservation Genetics

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 463–478 | Cite as

Conservation genetics of population bottlenecks: the role of chance, selection, and history

Research Article


Conservation genetics studies of populations bottlenecks are commonly framed under the detrimental paradigm of inbreeding depression. This conceptual paradigm presupposes a direct and unambiguous relationship between population size, genetic diversity, fitness, and extinction. Here, I review a series of studies that emphasize the role of chance, selection, and history in determining the genetic consequences of population bottlenecks. The variable responses of bottlenecks to fitness, phenotypic variation, and heritable variation emphasize the necessity to explore the relationship between molecular genetic diversity, fitness, adaptive genetic diversity, and extinction beyond the detrimental paradigm of inbreeding depression. Implications for conservation and management are presented as guidelines and testable predictions regarding the potential effects of bottlenecks on population viability and extinction.


Extinction Fitness Genetic diversity Inbreeding depression Population bottlenecks 



This paper was presented at the European Science Foundation ConGen Conference: Integrating Population Genetics and Conservation Biology held in Trondheim, Norway, 23–26 May 2009. I would like to thank Volker Loeschcke, Kuke Bijlsma, and Kjetil Hindar for allowing my participation in the conference and the ESF for providing financial support. I would also like to acknowledge Lukas Keller, who brought to my attention the potential chance effects of parameter estimation when moving from individual to population estimates, Kuke Bijlsma who emphasized the differential effects of inbreeding on fitness components, and R.C. Woodruff and two anonymous reviewers who provided helpful comments on the manuscript.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesBowling Green State UniversityBowling GreenUSA

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