Mutational meltdown refers to the process by which a small population accumulates deleterious 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. A population experiencing mutational meltdown is trapped in a downward spiral and will go extinct if the phenomenon lasts for some time. Usually, the deleterious mutations would simply be selected away, but during mutational meltdown, the number of individuals thus suffering an early death is too large relative to overall population size so that mortality exceeds the birth rate.
- W. Gabriel, M. Lynch, and R. Burger (1993). Muller's Ratchet and mutational meltdowns. Evolution 47:1744-1757.
- M. Lynch, R. Burger, D. Butcher, and W. Gabriel (1993). The mutational meltdown in asexual populations. J. Hered. 84:339-344.
- M. Lynch and W. Gabriel (1990). Mutation load and the survival of small populations. Evolution 44:1725-1737.
- M. Lynch, J. Conery, and R. Burger (1995) Mutational meltdowns in sexual populations. Evolution 49:1067-1080.