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Inbreeding in human populations: An assessment of the costs

Bittles, A.H. and Makov, E. (1988) Inbreeding in human populations: An assessment of the costs. In: Mascie-Taylor, C.G.N. and Boyce, A.J., (eds.) Human Mating Patterns. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, pp. 153-167.

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One of the earliest specific demonstrations of inbreeding effects in man was reported in 1902 when Garrod showed that of eighteen cases of the inborn error of metabolism alkaptonuria diagnosed in Europe and North America, twelve had been born to parents who were first cousins. However, in order to maintain a sense of perspective on the level of morbidity resulting from consanguinity, Garrod reminded his readership of the extreme rarity of the condition in first cousin offspring as a whole. In London, only six alkaptonuries had been detected among the estimated 50,000 first cousin progeny then resident in the city. Unfortunately this balanced approach to the effects of human inbreeding has not always been followed. As a result, the high rates of specific disorders identified in particular endogamous groups frequently have been inappropriately adopted by other workers as the bases for predictions on the probable effects of inbreeding in large human populations or even in the entire species. It must be stressed that while inbreeding maybe costly in families or groups known to carry recessive lethal or sub-lethal genes, this outcome is by no means inevitable. The aim of the present chapter is therefore to provide an overall assessment of the risks associated with various degrees of human inbreeding at the population, as opposed to the individual or group, level.

Item Type: Book Chapter
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Copyright: 1988 Cambridge University Press
Publisher's Website:
Notes: Society for the Study of Human Biology Symposium Series: (No. 28)
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