The long-term persistence of a population which has suffered a bottleneck partly depends on how historical demographic dynamics impacted its genetic diversity and the accumulation of deleterious mutations. Here we provide genomic evidence for the genetic effect of a recent population bottleneck in the endangered black-faced spoonbill (Platalea minor) after its rapid population recovery. Our data suggest that the bird's effective population size, Ne, had been relatively stable (7500–9000) since 22,000 years ago; however, a recent brief yet severe bottleneck (Ne = 20) which we here estimated to occur around the 1940s wiped out >99% of its historical Ne in roughly three generations. Despite a >15-fold population recovery since 1988, we found that black-faced spoonbill population has higher levels of inbreeding (7.4 times more runs of homozygosity) than its sister species, the royal spoonbill (P. regia), which is not thought to have undergone a marked population contraction. Although the two spoonbills have similar levels of genome-wide genetic diversity, our results suggest that selection on more genes was relaxed in the black-faced spoonbill; moreover individual black-faced spoonbills carry more putatively deleterious mutations (Grantham's score > 50), and may therefore express more deleterious phenotypic effects than royal spoonbills. Here we demonstrate the value of using genomic indices to monitor levels of genetic erosion, inbreeding and mutation load in species with conservation concerns. To mitigate the prolonged negative genetic effect of a population bottleneck, we recommend that all possible measures should be employed to maintain population growth of a threatened species.
ASJC Scopus subject areas