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Keywords:

  • deme productivity;
  • invasion;
  • Markov model;
  • metapopulation;
  • migration;
  • persistence;
  • simulation study;
  • t complex

The evolution of segregation distortion is governed by the interplay of selection at different levels. Despite their systematic advantage at the gamete level, none of the well-known segregation distorters spreads to fixation since they induce severe negative fitness effects at the individual level. In a deme-structured population, selection at the population level also plays a role. By means of a population genetical model, we analyse the various factors that determine the success of a segregation distorter in a metapopulation. Our focus is on the question of how the success of a distorter allele is affected by its segregation ratio and its fitness effects at the individual level. The analysis reveals that distorter alleles with high segregation ratios are the best invaders and reach the highest frequencies within single demes. However, the productivity of a deme harbouring a distorter with a high segregation ratio may be significantly reduced. As a consequence, an efficient distorter will be underrepresented in the migrant pool and, moreover, it may increase the probability of deme extinction. In other words, efficient distorters with high segregation ratios may well succumb to their own success. Therefore, distorters with intermediate segregation ratios may reach the highest frequency in the metapopulation as a result of the opposing forces of gamete, individual and group selection. We discuss the implications of this conclusion for the t complex of the house mouse.