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The population genetics of haplo-diploids and X-linked genes

  • P. J. Avery (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 April 2009

From the available electrophoretic data, it is clear that haplodiploid insects have a much lower level of genetic variability than diploid insects, a difference that is only partially explained by the social structure of some haplodiploid species. The data comparing X-linked genes and autosomal genes in the same species is much more sparse and little can be inferred from it. This data is compared with theoretical analyses of X-linked genes and genes in haplodiploids. (The theoretical population genetics of X-linked genes and genes in haplodiploids are identical.) X-linked genes under directional selection will be lost or fixed more quickly than autosomal genes as selection acts more directly on X-linked genes and the effective population size is smaller. However, deleterious disease genes, maintained by mutation pressure, will give higher disease incidences at X-linked loci and hence rare mutants are easier to detect at X-linked loci. Considering the forces which can maintain balanced polymorphisms, there are much stronger restrictions on the fitness parameters at X-linked loci than at autosomal loci if genetic variability is to be maintained, and thus fewer polymorphic loci are to be expected on the X-chromosome and in haplodiploids. However, the mutation-random drift hypothesis also leads to the expectation of lower heterozygosity due to the decrease in effective population size. Thus the theoretical results fit in with the data but it is still subject to argument whether selection or mutation-random drift are maintaining most of the genetic variability at X-linked genes and genes in haplodiploids.

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