Associations between heterozygosity and morphological variance

Robert M. Zink, Margaret F. Smith, James L. Patton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Recent studies have contrasted the expression of phenotypic traits, such as variance in morphological characters, with levels of genetic variation (heterozygosity) as determined by electrophoretic analysis of protein-coding loci. The theoretical basis for interpreting significant covariation stems in part from Lerner's work on genetic homeostasis, which predicts that within populations increased heterozygosity will produce decreased morphological variance, owing to a buffering effect of heterosis during development. However, the prediction for the relationship between genic heterozygosity and the variance of morphological traits among populations is unclear. To determine if a relationship existed between heterozygosity and morphological variance, we compared estimates of heterozygosity and morphological variance across 15 population samples of the fox sparrow and 17 samples of the pocket gopher. The estimates of morphological variance included coefficients of variation for each character and the variance of individual scores about the population mean in a principal components analysis. Although several recent studies have reported a significant relationship between heterozygosity and morphological variance, we found that the two measures do not covary significantly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)415-420
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Heredity
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1985


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