Comparing molecular measures for detecting inbreeding depression


J. Slate, AgResearch, Invermay Agricultural Centre, Private Bag 50034, Mosgiel, New Zealand. Tel.: +64 3 489 9168; fax: +64 3 489 9032; e-mail:


Correlations between heterozygosity and components of fitness have been investigated in natural populations for over 20 years. Positive correlations between a trait of interest and heterozygosity (usually measured at allozyme loci) are generally recognized as evidence of inbreeding depression. More recently, molecular markers such as microsatellites have been employed for the same purpose. A typical study might use around five to ten markers. In this paper we use a panel of 71 microsatellite loci to: (1) Compare the efficacy of heterozygosity and a related microsatellite-specific variable, mean d2, in detecting inbreeding depression; (2) Examine the statistical power of heterozygosity to detect such associations. We performed our analyses in a wild population of red deer (Cervus elaphus) in which inbreeding depression in juvenile traits had previously been detected using a panel of nine markers. We conclude that heterozygosity-based measures outperform mean d2-based measures, but that power to detect heterozygosity-fitness associations is nonetheless low when ten or fewer markers are typed.