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Reliable selfing rate estimates from imperfect population genetic data


P. David, Fax: (33) 67 41 21 38; E-mail:


Genotypic frequencies at codominant marker loci in population samples convey information on mating systems. A classical way to extract this information is to measure heterozygote deficiencies (FIS) and obtain the selfing rate s from FIS = s/(2 − s), assuming inbreeding equilibrium. A major drawback is that heterozygote deficiencies are often present without selfing, owing largely to technical artefacts such as null alleles or partial dominance. We show here that, in the absence of gametic disequilibrium, the multilocus structure can be used to derive estimates of s independent of FIS and free of technical biases. Their statistical power and precision are comparable to those of FIS, although they are sensitive to certain types of gametic disequilibria, a bias shared with progeny-array methods but not FIS. We analyse four real data sets spanning a range of mating systems. In two examples, we obtain s = 0 despite positive FIS, strongly suggesting that the latter are artefactual. In the remaining examples, all estimates are consistent. All the computations have been implemented in a open-access and user-friendly software called rmes (robust multilocus estimate of selfing) available at, and can be used on any multilocus data. Being able to extract the reliable information from imperfect data, our method opens the way to make use of the ever-growing number of published population genetic studies, in addition to the more demanding progeny-array approaches, to investigate selfing rates.

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