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BIOEVO-Evolusjonsbiologi og økologi

The role of heterozygosity for individual fitness and mating system evolution in birds

Awarded: NOK 1.1 mill.

It has long been realized that close inbreeding can be detrimental to offspring fitness. Such inbreeding depression is caused by the increased homozygosity at loci that affect fitness. Recently, some exciting studies on birds and mammals have revealed a s imilar effect also in natural outbred populations, in which various fitness parameters are positively correlated with the degree of heterozygosity at a number of non-coding loci (microsatellite DNA). The marker loci are presumably linked with loci of key importance for fitness. This discovery opens up a new and powerful tool to assess genetic effects. The project has two main objectives. First, we will investigate the effect of heterozygosity on individual reproductive performance and survival in a few selected long-term studies of bird populations in Norway. We will seek to identify particular fitness components for which heterozygosity is important. Second, we will test predictions of the hypothesis that extra-pair mating systems are driven by hetero zygosity benefits. We will here specifically use bird species where a genetic benefit to female extra-pair copulations has been documented or is strongly indicated by existing evidence. The project will be carried out in collaboration with several other r esearch groups in Norway.

Funding scheme:

BIOEVO-Evolusjonsbiologi og økologi

Thematic Areas and Topics

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