Once a fortnight the Qaecology lab gathers round a couple of packets of Tim Tams and a pot of coffee to discuss a paper. This week the theme was extinction risk and the paper chosen was Saccheri et al’s, Inbreeding and extinction in a butterfly metapopulation, from 1998, published in Nature. The paper was chosen as it outlines seminal work in ecological and conservation genetics and the authors were ahead of their time in demonstrating the effects of inbreeding depression on extinction risk. Our group was impressed foremost by the sheer amount of work involved, especially for a time when the methodology used was still in relative infancy. Of most interest to us was that the authors show just how quickly inbreeding depression could occur and the implication that has for managing threatened species. For us an obvious question raised was, how might the results have changed if the study was done today, with the tools we have now, which give us the ability to handle vastly greater amounts of genetic data in a shorter timeframe?
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