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Comparative Study
. 2004 Jun;58(6):1329-41.
doi: 10.1111/j.0014-3820.2004.tb01711.x.

Ecological Genetics of Adaptive Color Polymorphism in Pocket Mice: Geographic Variation in Selected and Neutral Genes

Comparative Study

Ecological Genetics of Adaptive Color Polymorphism in Pocket Mice: Geographic Variation in Selected and Neutral Genes

Hopi E Hoekstra et al. Evolution. .


Patterns of geographic variation in phenotype or genotype may provide evidence for natural selection. Here, we compare phenotypic variation in color, allele frequencies of a pigmentation gene (the melanocortin-1 receptor, Mc1r), and patterns of neutral mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variation in rock pocket mice (Chaetodipus intermedius) across a habitat gradient in southern Arizona. Pocket mice inhabiting volcanic lava have dark coats with unbanded, uniformly melanic hairs, whereas mice from nearby light-colored granitic rocks have light coats with banded hairs. This color polymorphism is a presumed adaptation to avoid predation. Previous work has demonstrated that two Mc1r alleles, D and d, differ by four amino acids, and are responsible for the color polymorphism: DD and Dd genotypes are melanic whereas dd genotypes are light colored. To determine the frequency of the two Mc1r allelic classes across the dark-colored lava and neighboring light-colored granite, we sequenced the Mc1r gene in 175 individuals from a 35-km transect in the Pinacate lava region. We also sequenced two neutral mtDNA genes, COIII and ND3, in the same individuals. We found a strong correlation between Mc1r allele frequency and habitat color and no correlation between mtDNA markers and habitat color. Using estimates of migration from mtDNA haplotypes between dark- and light-colored sampling sites and Mc1r allele frequencies at each site, we estimated selection coefficients against mismatched Mc1r alleles, assuming a simple model of migration-selection balance. Habitat-dependent selection appears strong but asymmetric: selection is stronger against light mice on dark rock than against melanic mice on light rock. Together these results suggest that natural selection acts to match pocket mouse coat color to substrate color, despite high levels of gene flow between light and melanic populations.

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