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Discriminating selection on lateral plate phenotype and its underlying gene, Ectodysplasin, in threespine stickleback.

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When a signature of natural selection is discovered on a gene that is pleiotropic or in tight linkage with other genes, it is challenging to determine which of the affected phenotypes is under selection. One way to make progress is to employ methods for analyzing natural selection on correlated traits, including both genotype and phenotype. We used this approach in threespine stickleback to estimate selection on a rapidly evolving trait, lateral armor plates, while controlling for variation at its major underlying gene, Ectodysplasin (Eda), and vice versa. This allowed for independent estimates of selection on lateral plates and on Eda via other traits. Previously, we demonstrated allele frequency changes at Eda in a pond experiment. Here we show that this resulted from selection on both plates and on Eda, implying additional selection on other phenotypic traits affected by the same gene. This represents the first evidence for direct selection on lateral plates independent of selection on the Eda locus and highlights the value of measuring selection on both phenotypes and genotypes in studies of adaptation.

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