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Evolution. 2003 Oct;57(10):2398-406.

Life history and the male mutation bias.

Author information

  • 1Department of Evolutionary Biology, Evolutionary Biology Centre, Uppsala University, Norbyvägen 18D, 752 36 Uppsala, Sweden.

Erratum in

  • Evolution Int J Org Evolution. 2003 Dec;57(12):2918.


If DNA replication is a major cause of mutation, then those life-history characters, which are expected to affect the number of male germline cell divisions, should also affect the male to female mutation bias (alpha(m)). We tested this hypothesis by comparing several clades of bird species, which show variation both in suitable life-history characters (generation time as measured by age at first breeding and sexual selection as measured by frequency of extrapair paternity) and in alpha(m), which was estimated by comparing Z-linked and W-linked substitution rates in gametologous introns. Alpha(m) differences between clades were found to positively covary with both generation time and sexual selection, as expected if DNA replication causes mutation. The effects of extrapair paternity frequency on alpha(m) suggests that increased levels of sexual selection cause higher mutation rates, which offers an interesting solution to the paradox of the loss of genetic variance associated with strong directional sexual selection. We also used relative rate tests to examine whether the observed differences in alpha(m) between clades were due to differences in W-linked or Z-linked substitution rates. In one case, a significant difference in alpha(m) between two clades was shown to be due to W-linked rates and not Z-linked rates, a result that suggests that mutation rates are not determined by replication alone.

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