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Heterozygosity is low where rare color variants in wild carnivores prevail

  • Coat color and pattern are a distinguished feature in mammalian carnivores, shaped by climatic cycles and habitat type. It can be expressed in various ways, such as gradients, polymorphisms, and rare color variants. Although natural selection explains much of the phenotypic variation found in the wild, genetic drift and heterozygote deficiency, as prominent in small and fragmented populations, may also affect phenotypic variability through the fixation of recessive alleles. The aim of this study was to test whether rare color variants in the wild could relate to a deficiency of heterozygotes, resulting from habitat fragmentation and small population size. We present an overview of all rare color variants in the order Carnivora, and compiled demographic and genetic data of the populations where they did and did not occur, to test for significant correlations. We also tested how phylogeny and body weight influenced the presence of color variants with phylogenetic generalized linear mixed models (PGLMMs). We found 40 color-variable species and 59 rare color variants. In 17 variable phenotypic populations for which genetic diversity was available, the average AR was 4.18, HO = 0.59, and HE= 0.66, and FIS= 0.086. We found that variable populations displayed a significant reduction in heterozygosity and allelic richness compared to non-variable populations across species. We also found a significant negative correlation between population size and inbreeding coefficients. Therefore, it is possible that small effective size had phenotypic consequences on the extant populations. The high frequency of the rare color variants (averaging 20%) also implies that genetic drift is locally overruling natural selection in small effective populations. As such, rare color variants could be added to the list of phenotypic consequences of inbreeding in the wild.
Author:Laura Tensen, Klaus Fischer
Parent Title (English):Ecology and Evolution
Document Type:Article
Date of completion:2024/06/03
Date of publication:2024/06/03
Publishing institution:Universität Koblenz, Universitätsbibliothek
Release Date:2024/06/03
Tag:Carnivora; anomalous colouration; color morphs; genetic diversity; inbreeding
First page:1
Last page:11
Institutes:Fachbereich 3 / Institut für Integrierte Naturwissenschaften / Institut für Integrierte Naturwissenschaften, Abt. Biologie
Licence (German):License LogoEs gilt das deutsche Urheberrecht: § 53 UrhG