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Mol Biol Evol. 2003 Feb;20(2):243-7.

Paternal leakage of mitochondrial DNA in the great tit (Parus major).

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland.


Animal mitochondrial DNA is normally inherited clonally from a mother to all her offspring. Mitochondrial heteroplasmy, the occurrence of more than one mitochondrial haplotype within an individual, can be generated by relatively common somatic mutations within an individual, by heteroplasmy of the oocytes, or by paternal leakage of mitochondria during fertilization of an egg. This biparental inheritance has so far been reported only in mice, mussels, Drosophila, and humans. Here we present evidence that paternal leakage occurs in a bird, the great tit Parus major. The major and minor subspecies groups of the great tit mix in the middle Amur Valley in far-eastern Siberia, where we found a bird that possessed the very distinct haplotypes of the two groups. To our knowledge this is the first report of paternal leakage in birds.

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