E.K. from Sweden writes in response to article What! … no potatoes?:
I have a question on genetic variation.
If a population arises from a few individuals for example you start with two rabbits and then let them reproduce. Do they show an accumulating amount of sicknesses till the point they die off?
Or do the sicknesses over time get weeded out and thus a healthy population result. Are there any observations on that?
Why did not the rabbits in Australia get weakened by inbreeding and were instead so successful?
What happens if you inbreed like that to fast producing animals like fruit flies. Thank you for this site which helps me a lot in making my faith stronger.
CMI’s Dr Don Batten responds:
The effect of inbreeding depends on several things, including:
The rabbits in Australia are an interesting matter. They have certainly thrived, apparently from a relatively small number introduced in 1859. There were rabbits on the First Fleet (1788) but apparently they did not thrive (maybe they were all eaten as food was in rather short supply in the early days of European settlement). The current population mainly came from the later introduction, although it is not certain that these were the only rabbits introduced. Hares had been brought in earlier (1840?) and became feral and foxes were brought in to control the hares in 1855 (and also for hunting). Clearly both hares and foxes have thrived. There was also a small introduction of sparrows (1863), which have also thrived in Australia.
There is quite a list of troublesome imports into Australia (e.g.: Wikipedia: Invasive species in Australia). It is difficult to find the actual numbers introduced, but there must have been quite small numbers of most of them (except perhaps the cane toad) and they have all thrived….
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