Genetic variation in nuclear and mitochondrial markers supports a large sex difference in lifetime reproductive skew in a lekking species

Yvonne I. Verkuil, Cedric Juillet, David B. Lank, Fredrik Widemo, Theunis Piersma

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Sex differences in skews of vertebrate lifetime reproductive success are difficult to measure directly. Evolutionary histories of differential skew should be detectable in the genome. For example, male-biased skew should reduce variation in the biparentally inherited genome relative to the maternally inherited genome. We tested this approach in lek-breeding ruff (Class Aves, Philomachus pugnax) by comparing genetic variation of nuclear microsatellites (θn; biparental) versus mitochondrial D-loop sequences (θm; maternal), and conversion to comparable nuclear (Ne) and female (Nef) effective population size using published ranges of mutation rates for each marker (μ). We provide a Bayesian method to calculate Ne (θn = 4Neμn) and Nef (θm = 2Nefμm) using 95% credible intervals (CI) of θn and θm as informative priors, and accounting for uncertainty in μ. In 96 male ruffs from one population, Ne was 97% (79–100%) lower than expected under random mating in an ideal population, where Ne:Nef = 2. This substantially lower autosomal variation represents the first genomic support of strong male reproductive skew in a lekking species.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3626–3632
Number of pages7
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 3-Sep-2014


  • Effective population size, Philomachus pugnax, ruff, sexual selection, shorebirds

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