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PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e47220. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0047220. Epub 2012 Oct 15.

Multiple mating but not recombination causes quantitative increase in offspring genetic diversity for varying genetic architectures.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA. olav_rueppell@uncg.edu

Abstract

Explaining the evolution of sex and recombination is particularly intriguing for some species of eusocial insects because they display exceptionally high mating frequencies and genomic recombination rates. Explanations for both phenomena are based on the notion that both increase colony genetic diversity, with demonstrated benefits for colony disease resistance and division of labor. However, the relative contributions of mating number and recombination rate to colony genetic diversity have never been simultaneously assessed. Our study simulates colonies, assuming different mating numbers, recombination rates, and genetic architectures, to assess their worker genotypic diversity. The number of loci has a strong negative effect on genotypic diversity when the allelic effects are inversely scaled to locus number. In contrast, dominance, epistasis, lethal effects, or limiting the allelic diversity at each locus does not significantly affect the model outcomes. Mating number increases colony genotypic variance and lowers variation among colonies with quickly diminishing returns. Genomic recombination rate does not affect intra- and inter-colonial genotypic variance, regardless of mating frequency and genetic architecture. Recombination slightly increases the genotypic range of colonies and more strongly the number of workers with unique allele combinations across all loci. Overall, our study contradicts the argument that the exceptionally high recombination rates cause a quantitative increase in offspring genotypic diversity across one generation. Alternative explanations for the evolution of high recombination rates in social insects are therefore needed. Short-term benefits are central to most explanations of the evolution of multiple mating and high recombination rates in social insects but our results also apply to other species.

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