Mate choice for non-additive genetic benefits: a resolution to the lek paradox.

Department of Biology, University of Western Ontario, 1151 Richmond Street, London, Ontario, Canada N6A 5B7.
Journal of Theoretical Biology (Impact Factor: 2.3). 06/2008; 254(1):147-55. DOI: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2008.05.019
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT In promiscuous mating systems, females often show a consistent preference to mate with one or a few males, presumably to acquire heritable genetic benefits for their offspring. However, strong directional selection should deplete additive genetic variation in fitness and consequently any benefit to expressing the preference by females (referred to as the lek paradox). Here, we provide a novel resolution that examines non-additive genetic benefits, such as overdominance or inbreeding, as a source of genetic variation. Focusing on the inbreeding coefficient f and overdominance effects, we use dynamic models to show that (1) f can be inherited from sire to offspring, (2) populations with females that express a mating preferences for outbred males (low f) maintain higher genetic variation than populations with females that mate randomly, and (3) preference alleles for outbred males can invade populations even when the alleles are associated with a fecundity cost. We show that non-additive genetic variation due to overdominance can be converted to additive genetic variation and becomes "heritable" when the frequencies of alternative homozygous genotypes at fitness loci deviate from equality. Unlike previous models that assume an infinite population size, we now show that genetic drift in finite populations can lead to the necessary deviations in the frequencies of homozygous genotypes. We also show that the "heritability of f," and hence the benefit to a mating preference for non-additive genetic benefits, is highest in small populations and populations in which a smaller number of loci contribute to fitness via overdominance. Our model contributes to the solution of the lek paradox.

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