Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Genetic Load

A proportion, the relative decrease in the average fitness of a population compared with the fitness it would have if all individuals in the population had the genotype with the maximum fitness. Load is due to the accumulation of deleterious forms of genes (alleles) in a population, sometimes unexpressed because of recessivity, often arising from recurrent mutations and carried by individuals who may possess a lethal gene, a semilethal gene, or a sublethal gene. Load(s) may be viewed as consisting of several components, including mutational load, segregational load (balanced load), and substitutional load.

Cf. lethal equivalent value.

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