Predicting adaptation under migration load: the role of genetic skew

Evolution. 2009 Nov;63(11):2926-38. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2009.00773.x. Epub 2009 Jul 10.


Quantitative genetics models have been used to predict the constraints on local adaptation caused by gene flow between populations under migration-selection balance. One key assumption of this approach is that genetic values within a population are normally distributed. Gene flow, however, may generate distributions that are skewed toward the immigrant's mean value. If the response to selection from a skewed distribution is different from that expected under the assumption of normality, models may result in inaccurate predictions. We use individual-based computer simulations to explore this problem, comparing our results to a recent model developed by Hendry et al. (2001). We show that this model underestimates the equilibrium divergence between populations at migration-selection balance. The extent of this underestimation is correlated with the amount of genetic skew generated by migration and is partly explained by the fact that the analytical model ignores direct selection against hybrid phenotypes. We also show that all else being equal, response to selection in a population with a skewed distribution of genotypes is greater than in a population with normally distributed genotypes. The production of skew under migration-selection balance, however, is itself dependent upon the genetic architecture, with greater deviations from normality produced when alleles contributing to population differentiation have very different effect sizes. We find that both the skew and discrepancies between the models are greatest at intermediate migration rates and moderate to strong selection, which is exactly the region of parameter space that is most empirically relevant.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Animal Migration*
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Selection, Genetic