An analysis of selection on a colour polymorphism in the northern leopard frog


Eric A. Hoffman, Fax: (407) 823 5769; E-mail:


In this study, we investigated the role of selection in the maintenance of a dorsal colour polymorphism in natural populations of the northern leopard frog, Rana pipiens. We determined genetic structure both spatially and temporally from a suite of putatively neutral molecular markers and tested whether or not the colour locus exhibited patterns of genetic variation that differed from those of the neutral loci. Spatial genetic structure at the colour locus was indistinguishable from structure at neutral loci [95% confidence intervals of FST (neutral) = (0.07, 0.35), FST (colour locus) = 0.114]. In the temporal analysis, we found that the variance among populations in the change in allele frequency at the colour locus (equal to 0.004) lies within the 95% confidence intervals for the variance among populations in changes in allele frequencies at neutral loci. In light of our inability to show evidence for the selective maintenance of the colour polymorphism, we used computer simulations to infer the power of our spatial and temporal techniques to detect selection. The computer simulations showed that although the strength of selection (s) would need to be relatively strong to have been detected by the temporal approach (s = 0.1–0.4, depending on the model tested), the spatial analysis would have detected all but weak selection (s = 0.01–0.04, depending on the model tested). This study illustrates the importance of using a locus comparison approach to detect evidence for selective maintenance before conducting studies to measure the selective mechanisms maintaining a polymorphism.