Mammals with small populations do not exhibit larger genomes


Genome size in cellular organisms varies by six orders of magnitude, yet the cause of this large variation remains unexplained. The influential Drift-Barrier Hypothesis proposes that large genomes tend to evolve in small populations due to inefficient selection. However, to our knowledge no explicit tests of the Drift-Barrier Hypothesis have been reported. We performed the first explicit test, by comparing estimated census population size and genome size in mammals while incorporating potential covariates and the effect of shared evolutionary history. We found a lack of correlation between census population size and genome size among 199 species of mammals. These results suggest that population size is not the predominant factor influencing genome size and that the Drift-Barrier Hypothesis should be considered provisional.

Molecular Biology and Evolution