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What is the founder effect?

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Quick Answer

Founder effects are genetic phenomena, such as limited variation, among a population that started when a small group of people previously settled into a new area. The effect has been commonly observed in isolated areas where colonies were settled.

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Full Answer

Founder effects are examples of genetic drift, which describes certain genetic characteristics being represented more or less frequently in a limited population than in a larger population. A population that originated in an area with a limited number of people may show less variation than the larger population they previously came from.

For example, a small group of people breaks off from a larger population to settle a new remote area. One or more of the founding couples carries a genetic mutation that causes a rare disease. As breeding occurs within the new settlement, this genetic mutation and rare disease becomes more common than in the original larger population.

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