Present address: Department of Biological Sciences, University of Delaware, 118 Wolf Hall, Newark, DE 19716, USA.
Heterozygosity predicts clutch and egg size but not plasticity in a house sparrow population with no evidence of inbreeding
Article first published online: 30 NOV 2011
© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Volume 21, Issue 2, pages 406–420, January 2012
How to Cite
WETZEL, D. P., STEWART, I. R. K. and WESTNEAT, D. F. (2012), Heterozygosity predicts clutch and egg size but not plasticity in a house sparrow population with no evidence of inbreeding. Molecular Ecology, 21: 406–420. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2011.05380.x
- Issue published online: 4 JAN 2012
- Article first published online: 30 NOV 2011
- Received 14 June 2011; revision received 21 October 2011; accepted 25 October 2011
- heterozygosity-fitness correlation;
- Passer domesticus;
- reaction norm
We investigated the link between heterozygosity and the reaction norm attributes of reproductive performance in female house sparrows (Passer domesticus). We collected data on clutch size, egg size, hatching success and nestling survival in 2816 nesting attempts made by 791 marked individuals over a 16-year period. Pedigree analysis revealed no evidence of inbreeding. Neither parent–offspring regression nor an animal model revealed significant heritability in clutch or egg size. We selected 42 females that laid at least seven clutches at our study site and used a survey of 21 autosomal microsatellite loci to estimate heterozygosity for each female. We controlled for phenotypic plasticity and found that both clutch and egg size showed significant positive correlations with heterozygosity. We found no evidence that heterozygosity influenced the slope of individual reaction norms. Further analysis suggested that clutch size was affected by heterozygosity across the genome, but egg size had more complex relationships, with evidence favouring the influence of multiple loci. Given the apparent lack of inbreeding and large population size, our results suggest associative overdominance as the likely mechanism for the impact of heterozygosity, but also created a puzzle about the process producing associations between neutral markers and the genes affecting clutch size or egg size. One possible explanation is a long-term residual effect of the historical bottleneck that occurred when house sparrows were introduced into North America. The existence of heterozygosity-fitness correlations in a population with considerable phenotypic plasticity and little inbreeding implies that the effects of heterozygosity may be more significant than previously thought.