Habitat Fragmentation Causes Poor Genetic Diversity

by OBDK on September 14, 2022
Genetic diversity is an essential part of a healthy species population. When it comes to cheetahs, they have poor genetic diversity.1 
Poor genetic diversity usually stems from habitat fragmentation. When habitats are broken up, animals of the same species can’t connect, and so they’re stuck with a smaller group of their species that they can reach. Being able to connect with other animals in the same species is an important part of maintaining genetic diversity. Without it, the separated groups will breed with each other over and over again – this is an inbreeding depression, and it can cause an extinction vortex.2&3
This happens when isolated animals inbreed with the animals in their isolated population and end up passing on weaker genes to their offspring. The consequences of this happening are:4
  • Limited adaptation to their environment
  • Lowered resistance to disease
  • Decreased ability to survive  
When animals can connect through uninterrupted habitats, they can breed with mates that have more diverse genes. This helps ensure healthy offspring.5
Cheetahs, for example, tend to be very susceptible to diseases due to their low genetic diversity.1
The good news is that genetic diversity can be boosted by introducing new animals from separated populations. Bringing in new genes to a population can reverse an inbreeding depression.5
Have you caught our latest blogs? Check them out: 
  1. https://insider.si.edu/2016/06/smithsonian-study-reveals-precipitous-decline-genetic-diversity-wild-cheetahs/
  2. https://training.fws.gov/courses/csp/csp3157/content/terms/genetic_rescue.html
  3. https://environmentalevidencejournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13750-015-0031-x#Sec29
  4. https://training.fws.gov/courses/csp/csp3157/content/terms/genetic_extinction.html
  5. https://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/conservation_03

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