Give Now

A Moment of Science

Genetic Poker: Why Inbreeding Is A Danger

Humans must learn about the dangers of inbreeding before it's too late.

A man shuffling playing cards before a poker game

Photo: Sergio Bertolini (Flickr)

Shuffling cards is similar to shuffling genes. There is a greater chance of a better hand.

It’s a distressing fact that human activities are causing the wide-scale extinction of other species on earth.

Something you may not know, however, is that the fewer animals there are in a given species, the more at risk that species is — and not just because it’s easier for a small group to disappear than a large group. Another danger is inbreeding.

What Is Inbreeding?

Inbreeding is the term used when animals mate with their relatives. All animals, including humans, inherit half their genes from their mothers and half from their fathers.

Within certain limits, it’s good for offspring to have a father whose genetic makeup is significantly different from its mother’s.

Shuffling The Odds

It’s kind of like poker. Reshuffling the deck makes it more likely you’ll draw a good hand by chance. If the deck were only sixteen cards, each of which appeared twice, the chances of getting a good hand would be much lower.

Similarly, if you mix two animals that have close genetic makeups, the offspring won’t be as healthy as the offspring of two genetically dissimilar parents. That’s because many diseases are caused by mutant genes.

Poker And Genetics

If you inherit a mutant gene from your mother, you can use the non-mutant version inherited from your father as a backup. If both mother and father had mutant versions of the gene, however, disease will result. Inbreeding makes it much more likely that two mutant copies of a gene will show up.

So you can see the problem with endangered species. With fewer than about five hundred members, the gene pool is too restricted. Inbreeding is more likely. The following generations become progressively less healthy, eventually dying out.

  • http://twitter.com/jaslim18 Jasmine

    Now this is what I've been looking for. Could be giving you credits around the way the way you deliver this great insight. Such an interesting story about poker. Mac Poker Tournament

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_G5Z5HVVMZ64HPIVPLOE7GDVYRA Hector Stevens

    I’m just absolutely bookmarking this write up and also distributing it with my colleagues ….
    Latest Mac Poker News | Mac Poker Tools | Online Mac Poker Tools

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WKFQJETCFBWPBZRJPZQN23JPC4 Jeff Dave

    Wow ! You sure have conducted a magnificent efforts adding many of these contents about your write up. Most of these inputs certainly are of excellent assist.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WKFQJETCFBWPBZRJPZQN23JPC4 Jeff Dave

    I normally prefer to read the high quality content and this thing I discovered in this page. Thanks a lot for spreading this one.

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from A Moment of Science:

Support for Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science

Search A Moment of Science