Estimating heritabilities and genetic correlations with marker-based methods: An experimental test in Mimulus guttatus

  • Van Kleunen M
  • Ritland K
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The calculation of heritabilities and genetic correlations, which are necessary for predicting evolutionary responses, requires knowledge about the relatedness between individuals. This information is often not directly available, especially not for natural populations, but can be inferred by using molecular markers such as allozymes. Several methods based on inferred relatedness from marker data have been developed to estimate heritabilities and genetic correlations in natural populations. Most methods use maximum-likelihood procedures to assign pairs or groups of individuals to predefined discrete relatedness classes (e.g., half sibs and unrelated individuals). The Ritland method, on the other hand, uses method of moments estimators to estimate pairwise relatedness among individuals as continuous values. We tested both the Ritland method and a maximum-likelihood method by applying them to a greenhouse population consisting of seed families of the herb Mimulus guttatus and comparing the results to the ones from a frequently used standard method based on half-sib families. Estimates of genetic correlations were far from accurate, especially when we used the Ritland method. However, this study shows that even with a few variable allozyme loci, it is possible to get qualitatively good indications about the presence of heritable genetic variation from marker-based methods, even though both methods underestimated it.

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  • M. Van Kleunen

  • K. Ritland

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