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Genetics. 2006 Jul;173(3):1521-37.

Development of a linkage map and mapping of phenotypic polymorphisms in a free-living population of Soay sheep (Ovis aries).

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  • 1Institute of Evolutionary Biology, University of Edinburgh, UK.


An understanding of the determinants of trait variation and the selective forces acting on it in natural populations would give insights into the process of evolution. The combination of long-term studies of individuals living in the wild and better genomic resources for nonmodel organisms makes achieving this goal feasible. This article reports the development of a complete linkage map in a pedigree of free-living Soay sheep on St. Kilda and its application to mapping the loci responsible for three morphological polymorphisms for which the maintenance of variation demands explanation. The map was derived from 251 microsatellite and four allozyme markers and covers 3350 cM (approximately 90% of the sheep genome) at approximately 15-cM intervals. Marker order was consistent with the published sheep map with the exception of one region on chromosome 1 and one on chromosome 12. Coat color maps to chromosome 2 where a strong candidate gene, tyrosinase-related protein 1 (TYRP1), has also been mapped. Coat pattern maps to chromosome 13, close to the candidate locus Agouti. Horn type maps to chromosome 10, a location similar to that previously identified in domestic sheep. These findings represent an advance in the dissection of the genetic diversity in the wild and provide the foundation for QTL analyses in the study population.

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