Natural Selection on a Major Armor Gene in Threespine Stickleback

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Science  10 Oct 2008:
Vol. 322, Issue 5899, pp. 255-257
DOI: 10.1126/science.1159978

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Experimental estimates of the effects of selection on genes determining adaptive traits add to our understanding of the mechanisms of evolution. We measured selection on genotypes of the Ectodysplasin locus, which underlie differences in lateral plates in threespine stickleback fish. A derived allele (low) causing reduced plate number has been fixed repeatedly after marine stickleback colonized freshwater from the sea, where the ancestral allele (complete) predominates. We transplanted marine sticklebacks carrying both alleles to freshwater ponds and tracked genotype frequencies over a generation. The low allele increased in frequency once lateral plates developed, most likely via a growth advantage. Opposing selection at the larval stage and changing dominance for fitness throughout life suggest either that the gene affects additional traits undergoing selection or that linked loci also are affecting fitness.

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