Testing life-history pleiotropy in Caenorhabditis elegans

Evolution. 2001 Sep;55(9):1795-804. doi: 10.1111/j.0014-3820.2001.tb00828.x.


Much life-history theory assumes that alleles segregating in natural populations pleiotropically affect life-history traits. This assumption, while plausible, has rarely been tested directly. Here we investigate the genetic relationship between two traits often suggested to be connected by pleiotropy: maternal body size and fertility. We carry out a quantitative trait locus (QTL) analysis on two isolates of the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, and identify two body size and three fertility QTLs. We find that one of the fertility QTLs colocalizes with the two body size QTLs on Chromosome IV. Further analysis, however, shows that these QTLs are genetically separable. Thus, none of the five body size or fertility QTLs identified here shows detectable pleiotropy for the assayed traits. The evolutionary origin of these QTLs, possible candidate loci, and the significance for life-history evolution are discussed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Constitution
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / anatomy & histology
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / classification
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics*
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Female
  • Fertility
  • Genetic Markers
  • Genetic Variation
  • Male
  • Quantitative Trait, Heritable*
  • Species Specificity


  • Genetic Markers