M. Rafajlovic, A. Eriksson, A. Rimark, S. H. Saltin, G. Charrier, M. Panova, C. André, K. Johannesson, B. Mehlig
(Submitted on 5 Nov 2012)
In metapopulations, genetic variation of local populations is influenced by the genetic content of the founders, and of migrants following establishment. We analyse the effect of multiple paternity on genetic diversity using a model in which the highly promiscuous marine snail Littorina saxatilis expands from a mainland to colonise initially empty islands of an archipelago. Migrant females carry a large number of eggs fertilised by 1 – 10 mates. We quantify the genetic diversity of the population in terms of its heterozygosity: initially during the transient colonisation process, and at long times when the population has reached an equilibrium state with migration. During colonisation, multiple paternity increases the heterozygosity by 10 – 300 % in comparison with the case of single paternity. The equilibrium state, by contrast, is less strongly affected: multiple paternity gives rise to 10 – 50 % higher heterozygosity compared with single paternity. Further we find that far from the mainland, new mutations spreading from the mainland cause bursts of high genetic diversity separated by long periods of low diversity. This effect is boosted by multiple paternity. We conclude that multiple paternity facilitates colonisation and maintenance of small populations, whether or not this is the main cause for the evolution of extreme promiscuity in Littorina saxatilis.