U.S. Department of Commerce


Date of this Version



TRENDS in Ecology and Evolution Vol.19 No.9 September 2004


A series of important new theoretical, experimental and observational studies demonstrate that just a few immigrants can have positive immediate impacts on the evolutionary trajectory of local populations. In many cases, a low level of immigration into small populations has produced fitness benefits that are greater than those predicted by theoretical models, resulting in what has been termed ‘genetic rescue’. However, the opposite result (reduced fitness) can also be associated with immigration of genetically divergent individuals. Central to our understanding of genetic rescue are complex interactions among fundamental concepts in evolutionary and population biology, including both genetic and non-genetic (environmental, behavioral and demographic) factors. Developing testable models to predict when genetic rescue is likely to occur is a daunting challenge that will require carefully controlled, multigeneration experiments as well as creative use of information from natural ‘experiments’.