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Founder effect

The Founder effect is the name of an evolutionary phenomenon.

Founder effects arise when a new and isolated environment is invaded by only a few members of a species, which then multiply rapidly. In the extreme case, a single fertilised female might arrive in a new environment. It is a type of population bottleneck.

The result of the small number of founders is that there is a sharp loss of genetic variation compared with the parent population. As a result, the new population may be distinctively different, genetically and phenotypically, from the parent population it derived from. In addition, there is a raised probability of inbreeding, resulting in an unusual number of defects due to recessive genes.

Founder effects are common in island ecology , but the isolation need not be geographical. For example, the Amish populations in the United States, which have grown from a very few founders but have not recruited newcomers, and tend to marry within the community, exhibit founder effects: phenomena such as polydactyly (extra fingers and toes, a symptom of Ellis-van Creveld syndrome ), though still rare absolutely, are more common in Amish communities than in the US population at large.

In extreme cases, founder effects may lead to the speciation and subsequent evolution of new species.

See also

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  • Founder effect

Topics in population genetics
Key concepts: Hardy-Weinberg law | Fisher's fundamental theorem | neutral theory
Selection: natural | Censored page | artificial | ecological
Genetic drift: small population size | population bottleneck | founder effect
Founders: Ronald Fisher | J.B.S. Haldane | Sewall Wright
Related topics: evolution | microevolution | evolutionary game theory | fitness landscape
List of evolutionary biology topics

Last updated: 02-10-2005 14:27:16
Last updated: 03-18-2005 11:16:12