Inheritance patterns of plumage coloration in common buzzards Buteo buteo do not support a one-locus two-allele model

Elena Frederika Kappers, Christiaan de Vries, Anneke Alberda, Wolfgang Forstmeier, Christiaan Both, Bart Kempenaers

OnderzoeksoutputAcademicpeer review

7 Citaten (Scopus)
214 Downloads (Pure)


Balancing selection is a major mechanism to maintain colour polymorphisms over evolutionary time. In common buzzards, variation in plumage colour was reportedly maintained by a heterozygote advantage: heterozygote intermediates had higher fitness than homozygote light and dark morphs. Here, we challenge one of the basic premises of the heterozygote advantage hypothesis, by testing whether plumage colour variation in common buzzards follows a one-locus two-allele inheritance model. Using a long-term population study with 202 families, we show that colour variation in buzzards is highly heritable. However, we find no support for a simple Mendelian one-locus two-allele model of inheritance. Our results rather suggest that buzzard plumage colour should be considered a quantitative polygenic trait. As a consequence, it is unlikely that the proposed heterozygote advantage is the mechanism that maintains this genetic variation. We hypothesize that plumage colour effects on fitness might depend on the environment, but this remains to be tested.
Originele taal-2English
Aantal pagina's4
TijdschriftBiology Letters
Nummer van het tijdschrift4
StatusPublished - apr-2018

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