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The Effect of Multiple Paternity on Genetic Diversity of Small Populations during and after Colonisation

Journal article
Authors Marina Rafajlovic
A. Eriksson
Anna Rimark
Sara Hintz-Saltin
Grégory Charrier
Marina Panova
Carl André
Kerstin Johannesson
Bernhard Mehlig
Published in Plos One
Volume 8
Issue 10
ISSN 1932-6203
Publication year 2013
Published at Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Tjärnö Marine Biological Laboratory
Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Department of Physics (GU)
Language en
Subject categories Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences


Genetic variation within and among populations is influenced by the genetic content of the founders and the migrants following establishment. This is particularly true if populations are small, migration rate low and habitats arranged in a stepping-stone fashion. Under these circumstances the level of multiple paternity is critical since multiply mated females bring more genetic variation into founder groups than single mated females. One such example is the marine snail Littorina saxatilis that during postglacial times has invaded mainland refuge areas and thereafter small islands emerging due to isostatic uplift by occasional rafting of multiply mated females. We modelled effects of varying degrees of multiple paternity on the genetic variation of island populations colonised by the founders spreading from the mainland, by quantifying the population heterozygosity during both the transient colonisation process, and after a steady state (with migration) has been reached. During colonisation, multiple mating by 2 10 males increased the heterozygosity by 10 300% in comparison with single paternity, while in the steady state the increase was 10-50% compared with single paternity. In the steady state the increase of heterozygosity due to multiple paternity is determined by a corresponding increase in effective population size. During colonisation, by contrast, the increase in heterozygosity is larger and it cannot be explained in terms of the effective population size alone. During the steady-state phase bursts of high genetic variation spread through the system, and far from the mainland this led to short periods of high diversity separated by long periods of low diversity. The size of these fluctuations was boosted by multiple paternity. We conclude that following glacial periods of extirpation, recolonization of isolated habitats by this species has been supported by its high level of multiple paternity.

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