How to use molecular marker data to measure evolutionary parameters in wild populations



    Corresponding author
    1. Edward Grey Institute, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX1 3PS, UK,
      Dany Garant, Fax: (+44) 1865 271168; E-mail:
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    1. Institute of Evolutionary Biology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH9 3JT, UK
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Dany Garant, Fax: (+44) 1865 271168; E-mail:


Estimating the genetic basis of phenotypic traits and the selection pressures acting on them are central to our understanding of the evolution and conservation of wild populations. However, obtaining such evolutionary-related parameters is not an easy task as it requires accurate information on both relatedness among individuals and their breeding success. Polymorphic molecular markers are very useful in estimating relatedness between individuals and parentage analyses are now extensively used in most taxa. The next step in the application of molecular data to wild populations is to use them to derive estimates of evolutionary-related parameters for quantitative traits, such as quantitative genetic parameters (e.g. heritability, genetic correlations) and measures of selection (e.g. selection gradients). Despite their great appeal and potential, the optimal use of molecular tools is still debated and it remains unclear how they should best be used to obtain reliable estimates of evolutionary parameters in the wild. Here, we review the methods available for estimating quantitative genetic and selection parameters and discuss their merits and shortcomings, to provide a tool that summarizes the potential uses of molecular data to obtain such parameters in wild populations.