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Genetics. 1994 Dec;138(4):1309-14.

The population dynamics of maternal-effect selfish genes.

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


We use population genetic methods to describe the expected population dynamics of the selfish-gene chromosomal factor, Medea (maternal-effect dominant embryonic arrest), recently discovered in flour beetles, genus Tribolium. In the absence of deleterious effects on gross fecundity, Medea factors spread to fixation for all degrees of maternal-effect lethality greater than zero and the rate of spread is proportional to the strength of the maternal-effect. The rate of spread when rare is very slow, on the order of the frequency squared p2, but this can be accelerated to order p when there is density regulation at the level of families as is known to occur for some genetic strains of flour beetles. When there are general deleterious effects of Medea on fecundity, affecting all offspring genotypes in addition to the genotype-specific maternal effect, then a stable interior polymorphism is possible. The location of the interior equilibrium and the probability of loss or fixation are sensitive to the degree of dominance of these fecundity effects.

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