MAPPING QUANTITATIVE TRAIT LOCI UNDERLYING FITNESS-RELATED TRAITS IN A FREE-LIVING SHEEP POPULATION

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Abstract

We searched for quantitative trait loci (QTL) underlying fitness-related traits in a free-living pedigree of 588 Soay sheep in which a genetic map using 251 markers with an average spacing of 15 cM had been established previously. Traits examined included birth date and weight, considered both as maternal and offspring traits, foreleg length, hindleg length, and body weight measured on animals in August and jaw length and metacarpal length measured on cleaned skeletal material. In some cases the data were split to consider different age classes separately, yielding a total of 15 traits studied. Genetic and environmental components of phenotypic variance were estimated for each trait and, for those traits showing nonzero heritability (N= 12), a QTL search was conducted by comparing a polygenic model with a model including a putative QTL. Support for a QTL at genome-wide significance was found on chromosome 11 for jaw length; suggestive QTL were found on chromosomes 2 and 5 (for birth date as a trait of the lamb), 8 (birth weight as a trait of the lamb), and 15 (adult hindleg length). We discuss the prospects for refining estimates of QTL position and effect size in the study population, and for QTL searches in free-living pedigrees in general.

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