QTL mapping for sexually dimorphic fitness-related traits in wild bighorn sheep


J. Poissant, C. S. Davis, R. M. Malenfant, J. T. Hogg, and D. W. Coltman


Heredity 108(3):256-263; 2012


Dissecting the genetic architecture of fitness-related traits in wild populations is key to understanding evolution and the mechanisms maintaining adaptive genetic variation. We took advantage of a recently developed genetic linkage map and phenotypic information from wild pedigreed individuals from Ram Mountain, Alberta, Canada, to study the genetic architecture of ecologically important traits (horn volume, length, base circumference and body mass) in bighorn sheep. In addition to estimating sex-specific and cross-sex quantitative genetic parameters, we tested for the presence of quantitative trait loci (QTLs), colocalization of QTLs between bighorn sheep and domestic sheep, and sex × QTL interactions. All traits showed significant additive genetic variance and genetic correlations tended to be positive. Linkage analysis based on 241 microsatellite loci typed in 310 pedigreed animals resulted in no significant and five suggestive QTLs (four for horn dimension on chromosomes 1, 18 and 23, and one for body mass on chromosome 26) using genome-wide significance thresholds (Logarithm of odds (LOD) >3.31 and >1.88, respectively). We also confirmed the presence of a horn dimension QTL in bighorn sheep at the only position known to contain a similar QTL in domestic sheep (on chromosome 10 near the horns locus; nominal P<0.01) and highlighted a number of regions potentially containing weight-related QTLs in both species. As expected for sexually dimorphic traits involved in male-male combat, loci with sex-specific effects were detected. This study lays the foundation for future work on adaptive genetic variation and the evolutionary dynamics of sexually dimorphic traits in bighorn sheep.