Functional extinction
Functional extinction is the extinction
In biology and ecology, extinction is the end of an organism or of a group of organisms , normally a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the last individual of the species, although the capacity to breed and recover may have been lost before this point...

 of a species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 or other taxon
|thumb|270px|[[African elephants]] form a widely-accepted taxon, the [[genus]] LoxodontaA taxon is a group of organisms, which a taxonomist adjudges to be a unit. Usually a taxon is given a name and a rank, although neither is a requirement...

 such that:
  1. it disappears from the fossil record, or historic reports of its existence cease;
  2. the reduced population no longer plays a significant role in ecosystem
    An ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving , physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water and sunlight....

     function; or
  3. the population is no longer viable. There are no individuals able to reproduce, or the small population of breeding individuals will not be able to sustain itself due to inbreeding depression
    Inbreeding depression
    Inbreeding depression is the reduced fitness in a given population as a result of breeding of related individuals. It is often the result of a population bottleneck...

     and genetic drift
    Genetic drift
    Genetic drift or allelic drift is the change in the frequency of a gene variant in a population due to random sampling.The alleles in the offspring are a sample of those in the parents, and chance has a role in determining whether a given individual survives and reproduces...

    , which leads to a loss of fitness
    Fitness (biology)
    Fitness is a central idea in evolutionary theory. It can be defined either with respect to a genotype or to a phenotype in a given environment...


In plant populations, self-incompatibility mechanisms
Self-incompatibility in plants
Self-incompatibility is a general name for several genetic mechanisms in angiosperms, which prevent self-fertilization and thus encourage outcrossing...

 may cause related plant specimens to be incompatible, which may lead to functional extinction if an entire population becomes self incompatible. This does not occur in larger populations.

In polygynous
Polygyny is a form of marriage in which a man has two or more wives at the same time. In countries where the practice is illegal, the man is referred to as a bigamist or a polygamist...

 populations, where only a few males leave offspring, there is a much smaller reproducing population than if all viable males were considered. Furthermore, the successful males act as a genetic bottleneck, leading to more rapid genetic drift or inbreeding problems in small populations.

The IUCN Red List
IUCN Red List
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species , founded in 1963, is the world's most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biological species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature is the world's main authority on the conservation status of species...

 does not have a category for functional extinction, and so species which are no longer viable or able to sustain themselves in the wild may be classified as critically endangered
Critically endangered
Version 2010.3 of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species identified 3744 Critically Endangered species, subspecies and varieties, stocks and subpopulations.Critically Endangered by kingdom:*1993 Animalia*2 Fungi*1745 Plantae*4 Protista-References:...

; or they may be extinct in the wild
Extinct in the Wild
Extinct in the Wild is a conservation status assigned to species or lower taxa, the only known living members of which are being kept in captivity or as a naturalized population outside its historic range.-Examples:...

if specimens remain in captivity but there is no reasonable doubt that the last wild specimen has died.

See also

  • Conservation genetics
    Conservation genetics
    Conservation genetics is an interdisciplinary science that aims to apply genetic methods to the conservation and restoration of biodiversity. Researchers involved in conservation genetics come from a variety of fields including population genetics, molecular ecology, biology, evolutionary biology,...

  • Mutational meltdown
    Mutational meltdown
    Mutational meltdown refers to the process by which a small population accumulates harmful mutations, which leads to loss of fitness and decline of the population size, which may lead to further accumulation of deleterious mutations due to inbreeding depression...

  • Small population size
    Small population size
    Small populations behave differently from larger populations. They often result in population bottlenecks, which have harmful consequences for the survival of that population.-Demographic effects:...

  • Extinction vortex
    Extinction Vortex
    Extinction vortices are a class of models through which conservation biologists, geneticists and ecologists can understand the dynamics of and categorize extinctions in the context of their causes. Developed by M. E. Gilpin and M. E...

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