Inbreeding refers to the process of producing offspring by mating or breeding organisms or individuals that are related closely genetically. The opposite of inbreeding is out-crossing which is breeding or mating individuals or organisms that are not related. Analogically, the term inbreeding is used in reproduction in human although it commonly refers to genetic disorders as well as other consequences that arise from constanguinity and incestuous sexual relationships.
Homozygosity results from inbreeding. This can increase changes of the offspring suffering the effects of deleterious or recessive traits. Generally, this leads to decreased fitness biologically in a population. This is known as inbreeding depression and the ability of a population to reproduce and survive is greatly reduced.
Individuals that inherit the deleterious traits are called inbred. The main reason for selective out-crossing is avoidance of the deleterious recessive traits or alleles that result from inbreeding. For many years, inbreeding has been used as a technique for selective breeding. Breeders, for instance use inbreeding in livestock when they want to establish a desirable and new trait in their stock. However, they always watch for the undesirable characteristics in the offspring that can be eliminated later through culling or further breeding selectively.
Inbreeding is basically used in revealing the deleterious recessive alleles that can be eliminated via culling or assortative breeding. Inbred lines in breeding of plants are used as the hybrid lines creation stocks. This makes it possible to use heterosis effects. In plants, inbreeding occurs naturally in form of the self-pollination process.
In human beings, offspring of persons that are closely related are likely to suffer the effects of inbreeding including congenital birth defects. Chances of the disorders occurring are increased by the closeness of the relationships of biological parents. This can be attributed to the fact that pairing increases proportion of the homozygous zygotes being produced in the offspring, particularly, the deleterious recessive alleles that produce the disorders.
In populations, majority of recessive alleles are not common. It is highly unlikely for marriage partners who are unrelated to carry the alleles. Nevertheless, due to the fact that close relatives have a large portion of alleles, there is a dramatically high probability that such deleterious alleles will be inherited from common ancestor via both parents.
This is contrary to the common belief that allele frequencies are not altered by inbreeding but instead, it increases relative homozygote to the heterozygote proportion. However, its frequency decreases rapidly in an inbred population due to the increased proportion of the deleterious homozygote allele exposed to natural selection.
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