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Stabilizing selection maintains exuberant colour polymorphism in the spider Theridion californicum (Araneae, Theridiidae)

Authors

  • PETER J. P. CROUCHER,

    1. Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley, 130 Mulford Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720-3114, USA
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  • GEOFFREY S. OXFORD,

    1. Department of Biology (Area 14), University of York, Wentworth Way, Heslington, York YO10 5DD, UK
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  • ATHENA LAM,

    1. Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley, 130 Mulford Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720-3114, USA
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  • ROSEMARY G. GILLESPIE

    1. Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley, 130 Mulford Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720-3114, USA
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Peter J. P. Croucher, Fax: +1 510 643 5438; E-mail: croucher@berkeley.edu

Abstract

Genetically controlled colour polymorphisms provide a physical manifestation of the operation of selection and how this can vary according to the spatial or temporal arrangement of phenotypes, or their frequency in a population. Here, we examine the role of selection in shaping the exuberant colour polymorphism exhibited by the spider Theridion californicum. This species is part of a system in which several distantly related spiders in the same lineage, but living in very different geographical areas, exhibit remarkably convergent polymorphisms. These polymorphisms are characterized by allelic inheritance and the presence of a single common cryptic morph and, in the case of T. californicum and its congener the Hawaiian happy-face spider Theridion grallator, numerous rare patterned morphs. We compare population differentiation estimated from colour phenotypic data to differentiation at neutral amplified fragment length polymorphisms (AFLP) loci and demonstrate that the colour polymorphism appears to be maintained by balancing selection. We also examine the patterns of selection in the genome-wide sample of AFLP loci and compare approaches to detecting signatures of selection in this context. Our results have important implications regarding balancing selection, suggesting that selective agents can act in a similar manner across disparate taxa in globally disjunct locales resulting in parallel evolution of exuberant polymorphism.

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