The population growth consequences of variation in individual heterozygosity.
Di Fonzo MMI., Pelletier F., Clutton-Brock TH., Pemberton JM., Coulson T.
Heterozygosity has been associated with components of fitness in numerous studies across a wide range of taxa. Because heterozygosity is associated with individual performance it is also expected to be associated with population dynamics. However, investigations into the association between heterozygosity and population dynamics have been rare because of difficulties in linking evolutionary and ecological processes. The choice of heterozygosity measure is a further issue confounding such studies as it can be biased by individual differences in the frequencies of the alleles studied, the number of alleles at each locus as well as the total number of loci typed. In this study, we first examine the differences between the principal metrics used to calculate heterozygosity using long-term data from a marked population of Soay sheep (Ovis aries). Next, by means of statistical transformation of the homozygosity weighted by loci index, we determine how heterozygosity contributes to population growth in Soay sheep by modelling individual contributions to population growth (p(t(i))) as a function of several covariates, including sex, weight and faecal egg count--a surrogate of parasitic nematode burden in the gut. We demonstrate that although heterozygosity is associated with some components of fitness, most notably adult male reproductive success, in general it is only weakly associated with population growth.