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Accuracy and precision of methods to estimate the number of parents contributing to a half-sib progeny array.


Molecular technologies have made feasible large-scale studies of genetic parentage in nature by permitting the genotypic examination of hundreds or thousands of progeny. One common goal of such studies is to estimate the true number of unshared parents who contributed to a large half-sib progeny array. Here we introduce computer programs designed to count the number of gametotypes contributed by unshared parents to each such progeny array, as well as assess the accuracy and precision of various estimators for the true number of unshared parents via computer simulation. These simulations indicate that under most biological conditions (1) a traditional approach (the multilocus MINIMUM METHOD) that merely counts the number of distinct haplotypes in offspring and divides by 2L, where L is the number of loci assayed, often vastly underestimates the true number of unshared parents who contributed to a half-sib progeny array; (2) a recently developed HAPLOTYPES estimator is a considerable improvement over the MINIMUM METHOD when parental numbers are high; and (3) the accuracy and precision of the HAPLOTYPES estimator increase as marker polymorphism and sample size increase, or as reproductive skew and the number of parents contributing to the progeny array decrease. Generally, HAPLOTYPES-based estimates of parental numbers in large half-sib cohorts should improve the characterization of organismal reproductive strategies and mating systems from genetic data.

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