Extent of QTL Reuse During Repeated Phenotypic Divergence of Sympatric Threespine Stickleback. Academic Article uri icon


  • How predictable is the genetic basis of phenotypic adaptation? Answering this question begins by estimating the repeatability of adaptation at the genetic level. Here, we provide a comprehensive estimate of the repeatability of the genetic basis of adaptive phenotypic evolution in a natural system. We used quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping to discover genomic regions controlling a large number of morphological traits that have diverged in parallel between pairs of threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus species complex) in Paxton and Priest lakes, British Columbia. We found that nearly half of QTL affected the same traits in the same direction in both species pairs. Another 40% influenced a parallel phenotypic trait in one lake but not the other. The remaining 10% of QTL had phenotypic effects in opposite directions in the two species pairs. Similarity in the proportional contributions of all QTL to parallel trait differences was about 0.4. Surprisingly, QTL reuse was unrelated to phenotypic effect size. Our results indicate that repeated use of the same genomic regions is a pervasive feature of parallel phenotypic adaptation, at least in sticklebacks. Identifying the causes of this pattern would aid prediction of the genetic basis of phenotypic evolution.

publication date

  • November 2015