Dr Jacob Gratten and Dr Jon Slate, from the University’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, led the team, which found that the gene responsible for dark coat colour is linked to other genes that reduce an animal’s fitness.
The researchers looked at coat colour in a feral population of Soay sheep on Hirta in the St Kilda Archipelago. On Hirta about three quarters of sheep have dark brown coats, while the remaining quarter have light sandy coats. However, despite the fact that the dark-coated Soay sheep are larger, which is usually linked to survival and reproductive success, the frequency of light-coated sheep has increased over the last 20 years.
Darwin’s theory would have predicted that because dark-coated sheep appear fitter that they would do better than light-coated sheep, until only dark-coated sheep remained in the population. However, this study shows that the process of evolution by natural selection in Soay sheep, although still evident, is actually more complex than this.
Dr Gratten and colleagues used a statistical genetics approach similar to that used by medical geneticists, when trying to map genes for human disease such as heart disease or diabetes. They found that the dark coat trait is usually co-inherited with a set of genes that increase size but decrease reproductive success. The light coat trait is usually co-inherited with a set of genes that decrease size but increase reproductive success.
This discovery means that sheep with one copy of the dark gene and one copy of the light gene are quite large and also have quite high reproductive success. Sheep with two copies of the dark gene are larger still, but have poor reproductive success. Sheep with two copies of the light gene are small, but still have quite high reproductive success. This means that the two types of dark sheep although indistinguishable visually, vary in Darwinian fitness.
The study was based on over 20 years of field data, and involved researchers from the University of Edinburgh and the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Brisbane, as well as members of the University of Sheffield.
Dr Jacob Gratten said: “The aim of this study was to improve understanding of how evolution by natural selection operates. The study addresses an important problem in evolutionary biology. It shows that predicting the evolutionary response to selection is difficult without knowledge of which genes are in close proximity to each other. It also highlights that an understanding of the underlying genetic basis of a highly visible trait was necessary in order to understand its evolution.”
Jenny Wilson | EurekAlert!
Multi-year study finds 'hotspots' of ammonia over world's major agricultural areas
17.03.2017 | University of Maryland
Diabetes Drug May Improve Bone Fat-induced Defects of Fracture Healing
17.03.2017 | Deutsches Institut für Ernährungsforschung Potsdam-Rehbrücke
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy