In Evolutionary Twist, Island Foxes are “Genetically Flatlining”

Island Foxes set record for least genetic variation in a sexually reproducing species. 

High genetic diversity among individuals in a species is usually optimal for survival, while low levels of genetic variation put a species at risk of extinction. In an evolutionary twist, Island Foxes native to the Channel Islands are challenging this long-standing principle. The individual foxes are nearly identical to one another. These foxes have set a record for the least genetic variation in a sexually reproducing species. The new study, published in Current Biology, was conducted by a team led by Robert K. Wayne, a geneticist at the University of California, Los Angeles. The researchers call it “genetic flatlining.”

On the face of it, the island foxes should have vanished long ago. ‘But that hasn’t happened to them in thousands of years. They’re an exception to the paradigm.’  -Dr. Wayne, Geneticist at the University of California, Los Angeles

Island Conservation Science Island FoxySan Nicolas Island Fox. Photo by Island Conservation

Researchers are now contemplating what they should do–if anything–about the genetic anomaly. Island Foxes have recently benefited from the removal of invasive species from their island homes, which has allowed their population size to increase.

Read the original article at The New York Times.

About Sara Kaiser

Sara received a BA in anthropology from UC Santa Cruz in 2014. As a freelance writer and editor, she seeks to produce and highlight stories that support ecological responsibility, body awareness, emotional intelligence, and creative action, and reveal the connections between them.

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