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Sexual selection and genetic colour polymorphisms in animals.

  • Maren Wellenreuther
  • Erik Svensson
  • Bengt Hansson
Publishing year: 2014
Language: English
Pages: 5398-5414
Publication/Series: Molecular Ecology
Volume: 23
Issue: 22
Document type: Journal article review
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

Abstract english

Genetic colour polymorphisms are widespread across animals and often subjected to complex selection regimes. Traditionally, colour morphs were used as simple visual markers to measure allele frequency changes in nature, selection, population divergence and speciation. With advances in sequencing technology and analysis methods, several model systems are emerging where the molecular targets of selection are being described. Here we discuss recent studies on the genetics of sexually selected colour polymorphisms, aiming at (1) reviewing the evidence of sexual selection on colour polymorphisms, (2) highlighting the genetic architecture, molecular and developmental basis underlying phenotypic colour diversification and (3) discuss how the maintenance of such polymorphisms might be facilitated or constrained by these. Studies of the genetic architecture of colour polymorphism point towards the importance of tight clustering of colour loci with other trait loci, such as in the case of inversions and supergene structures. Other interesting findings include linkage between colour loci and mate preferences or sex determination, and the role of introgression and regulatory variation in fuelling polymorphisms. We highlight that more studies are needed that explicitly integrate fitness consequences of sexual selection on colour with the underlying molecular targets of colour to gain insights into the evolutionary consequences of sexual selection on polymorphism maintenance. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.


  • Biological Sciences


  • BECC
  • Colour genes in dragonflies
  • Molecular Ecology and Evolution Lab
  • ISSN: 0962-1083
E-mail: erik [dot] svensson [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se


Evolutionary ecology

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