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Muller's Ratchet and Mutational Meltdowns

W. Gabriel, M. Lynch and R. Burger
Evolution
Vol. 47, No. 6 (Dec., 1993), pp. 1744-1757
DOI: 10.2307/2410218
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2410218
Page Count: 14
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Muller's Ratchet and Mutational Meltdowns
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Abstract

We extend our earlier work on the role of deleterious mutations in the extinction of obligately asexual populations. First, we develop analytical models for mutation accumulation that obviate the need for time-consuming computer simulations in certain ranges of the parameter space. When the number of mutations entering the population each generation is fairly high, the number of mutations per individual and the mean time to extinction can be predicted using classical approaches in quantitative genetics. However, when the mutation rate is very low, a fixation-probability approach is quite effective. Second, we show that an intermediate selection coefficient (s) minimizes the time to extinction. The critical value of s can be quite low, and we discuss the evolutionary implications of this, showing that increased sensitivity to mutation and loss of capacity for DNA repair can be selectively advantageous in asexual organisms. Finally, we consider the consequences of the mutational meltdown for the extinction of mitochondrial lineages in sexual species.

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