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Founder effect

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Figure illustrating the founder effect. The original parental population is seen to the left. This population is derived three potential populations which can be seen on the right. The founder effect is reflected in the proportion of blue and red individuals from different populations.

In population genetics, the founder effect is the loss of genetic variation that may occurs when a new population is established by a very small number of individuals (e.g. a single pregnant female, a single pair, or a small number of conspecifics[1][2]) from a larger population. The founder effect is the phenomenon whereby new colonies of a given species may become instantly distinct from the original population as a result of being founded by a portion of small atypical members of the parent population.[3] The founder effect is a special case of genetic drift[4] and is a stochastic or random genetic process.[5]

Size restrictions through which populations may pass are called bottlenecks. A particular case occurs when a population is established by a small number of colonists or founders. Genetic drift that follows is often called the founder effect.[6] Ernst Mayr defined the founder effect as:

the establishment of a new population by a few original founders (in a extreme case, by a single fertilized female) which carry only a small fraction of the total genetic variation of the parental population[7]

The Mayr's theory in which speciation by founding principle is the context where most of the evolution could, according to him, hypothetically occur is the theoretical foundation of the idea of punctuated equilibrium.[8]

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See also


  1. Mayr, Ernst (2001). What Evolution Is. New York: Basic Books. p. 286. ISBN 0-465-04425-5. 
  2. Sarfati, Jonathan (1999). Refuting Evolution. Green Forest, AR: Master Books. p. 37. ISBN 0-89051-258-2. 
  3. "Islands’ Weeds Don’t Support Evolution". Answers in Genesis. June 1, 1996. Retrieved December 20, 2012. 
  4. Hartwell, Leland; Hood, Leroy; Goldberg, Michael L.; Reynolds, Ann E.; Silver, Lee M.; Veres Ruth (2004). Genetics: from genes to genomes. McGraw Hill Higher Education. p. 688. ISBN 0-07291930-2. 
  5. Dobzhansky, Theodosius (1973). Genetic Diversity & Human Equality:The Facts & Fallacies in the Explosive Genetics & Education Controversy. New York: Basic Books. p. 78. ISBN 0-465-09710-3. 
  6. Futuyma, Douglas J. (2005). Evolution. Sunderland, Massachusetts: Sinauer Associates, Inc. p. 232. ISBN 978-0-87893-187-3. 
  7. Ridley, Mark (2004). "6:Random events in Population Genetics". Evolution (2nd ed.). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Blackwell Science. p. 140. ISBN 0-86542-495-0. 
  8. Futuyma, Douglas J (1986). Evolutionary Biology (2nd ed.). Sunderland, Massachusetts: Sinauer associates, Inc.. p. 239. ISBN 0-87893-188-0.