Genetically Vigorous Populations

Topics: Endangered species, Biodiversity, Conservation biology Pages: 7 (1521 words) Published: June 10, 2015


Genetically Vigorous Populations Paper
Megan Lade
University of Phoenix (Online Campus)
Niladri Sarker

Introduction into Genetic Diversity
Genetic diversity provides a species with its form and function. A species genotype refers to their genetic code; what their cells are going to be used for – hair cell, eye cell, muscle cell, etc. A species phonotype refers to the way in which that species gene will be expressed – blonde hair, blue eyes, large muscle tone; which significantly impacts the success of that individuals genes. Without genetic diversity among populations the gene pools would be very limited, which gives way to a rise in mutations and inevitably the end of a species. “Genes regulate body size, shape, physiological processes, behavioral traits, reproductive characteristics, tolerance of environmental extremes, dispersal and colonizing ability, the timing of seasonal and annual cycles (phenology), disease resistance, and many other traits…to ignore genetic variation is to ignore one of the fundamental forces that shape the biology of living organisms” (Falk, D., Knapp, E., & Guerrant, E., 2001). Genetic diversity also affords different organisms to change with the ever-changing environment around them. Environmental variation, over time, is known as natural or historic range variation. This can include: variation in population sizes of species due to natural predators and disease, changes in weather, changes in the availability of resources etc. Since the environment is always changing is allows populations to be genetically diverse. If species X were to live in a ‘perfect’ environment, there would be very little genetic diversity and biotic integrity – everything would remain status quo. We would not see species evolving or changing for any reason as there would be no need. Species all over the world are adaptable and change with their habitat – evolving tolerances to changes in the soil and weather and changing to continually be the fittest of that species to increase the chances of passing along their genes. Without genetic diversity we all, plants and animals alike, would be doomed as diversity among species allows us all to change and adapt to the uncertainties of the future. Species Facing Challenges in Genetic Diversity

A prime example of an animal species facing extinction due to the low genetic diversity among its population is the decreasing numbers of endangered Tasmanian Devils. These wild animals are found exclusively on the island of Tasmania, just southeast of Australia. It is estimated that only somewhere between twenty and fifty thousand exist in the wild; and only about 500 individuals are currently in breeding programs in Australian zoos. An infectious disease is running rampant through the remaining members of this species causing large tumors to grow on their faces and necks, preventing the animal from eating and drinking properly. Low genetic diversity due to the isolation of this animal on the island of Tasmania is causing the infection to grow and spread very rapidly – then that trait is passed along to its offspring, ultimately the Tasmanian devil dies of starvation. Zoologist Jeremy Austin discovered that the low genetic diversity in this species rendered the Tasmanian devil’s immune system useless as it does not recognize the cancer as being foreign – this is due to a deficiency in the devil’s major histocompatibility complex. “The breeding programs are a good back-up…but the long term survival of the species can only be reasonably guaranteed with an expanded genetic diversity” (Arnold, 2009). Instead of focusing on one specific plant population that suffers from low genetic diversity, spotlighting GMO (genetically modified organism) crops important. Scientists create this ‘super food’ from the genes of a particular species to increase production to feed the insatiable appetite of the US population. Per the GMO Journal, mass produced crop...

References: Arnold, P. (2009, December 4). Endangered Species Tasmanian Devil: Low Genetic Diversity as a Factor of the Tasmanian Devil as an Endangered Species. Retrieved March 8, 2015, from http://www.brighthub.com/science/genetics/articles/13897.aspx
Digest of Federal Resource Laws of Interest to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (n.d.). Retrieved March 8, 2015, from http://www.fws.gov/laws/lawsdigest/esact.html
Falk, D., Knapp, E., & Guerrant, E. (2001, December 17). An Introduction to Restoration Genetics: Why is Genetic Diversity Important? Retrieved March 6, 2015, from http://www.nps.gov/plants/restore/pubs/restgene/1.htm
Gertsberg, D. (2011, June 17). Loss of Biodiversity and Genetically Modified Crops. Retrieved March 9, 2015, from http://gmo-journal.com/2011/06/17/loss-of-biodiversity-and-genetically-modified-crops/
Major Differences. (n.d.). Retrieved March 6, 2015, from http://www.majordifferences.com/2013/02/difference-between-insitu-and-ex-situ.html#.VP42DI4prSo
Wildlife Population Management. (n.d.). Retrieved March 8, 2015, from http://tpwd.texas.gov/landwater/land/habitats/southtx_plain/habitat_management/gun.phtml
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