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Genetics. 1991 Jun;128(2):443-52.

Isolation by distance in a quantitative trait.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago, Illinois 60637.


Random genetic drift in a quantitative character is modeled for a population with a continuous spatial distribution in an infinite habitat of one or two dimensions. The analysis extends Wright's concept of neighborhood size to spatially autocorrelated sampling variation in the expected phenotype at different locations. Weak stabilizing selection is assumed to operate toward the same optimum phenotype in every locality, and the distribution of dispersal distances from parent to offspring is a (radially) symmetric function. The equilibrium pattern of geographic variation in the expected local phenotype depends on the neighborhood size, the genetic variance within neighborhoods, and the strength of selection, but is nearly independent of the form of the dispersal function. With all else equal, geographic variance is smaller in a two-dimensional habitat than in one dimension, and the covariance between expected local phenotypes decreases more rapidly with the distance separating them in two dimensions than in one. The equilibrium geographic variance is less than the phenotypic variance within localities, unless the neighborhood size is small and selection is extremely weak, especially in two dimensions. Nevertheless, dispersal of geographic variance created by random genetic drift is an important mechanism maintaining genetic variance within local populations. For a Gaussian dispersal function it is shown that, even with a small neighborhood size, a population in a two-dimensional habitat can maintain within neighborhoods most of the genetic variance that would occur in an infinite panmictic population.

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