According to neutral quantitative genetic theory, population bottlenecks are expected to decrease standing levels of additive genetic variance of quantitative traits. However, some empirical and theoretical results suggest that, if nonadditive genetic effects influence the trait, bottlenecks may actually increase additive genetic variance. This has been an important issue in conservation genetics where it has been suggested that small population size might actually experience an increase rather than a decrease in the rate of adaptation. Here we test if bottlenecks can break a selection limit for desiccation resistance in the rain forest-restricted fly Drosophila bunnanda. After one generation of single-pair mating, additive genetic variance for desiccation resistance increased to a significant level, on average higher than for the control lines. Line crosses revealed that both dominance and epistatic effects were responsible for the divergence in desiccation resistance between the original control and a bottlenecked line exhibiting increased additive genetic variance for desiccation resistance. However, when bottlenecked lines were selected for increased desiccation resistance, there was only a small shift in resistance, much less than predicted by the released additive genetic variance. The small selection response in the bottlenecked lines was no greater than that observed in the control lines. Thus bottlenecks might produce a statistically detectable change in additive genetic variance but this change has no impact on the response to selection.
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