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Linkage disequilibrium in natural and experimental populations of Drosophila melanogaster.


We have studied linkage disequilibrium in Drosophila melanogaster in two samples from a wild population and in four large laboratory populations derived from the wild samples. We have assayed four polymorphic enzyme loci, fairly closely linked in the third chromosome: Sod Est-6, Pgm, and Odh. The assay method used allows us to identify the allele associations separately in each of the two homologous chromosomes from each male sampled. We have detected significant linkage disequilibrium between two loci in 16.7% of the cases in the wild samples and in 27.8% of the cases in the experimental populations, considerably more than would be expected by chance alone. We have also found three-locus disequilibria in more instances than would be expected by chance. Some disequilibria present in the wild samples disappear in the experimental populations derived from them, but new ones appear over the generations. The effective population sizes required to generate the observed disequilibria by randomness range from 40 to more than 60,000 individuals in the natural population, depending on which locus pair is considered, and from 100 to more than 60,000 in the experimental populations. These population sizes are unrealistic; the fact that different locus-pairs yield disparate estimates within the same population argues against the likelihood that the disequilibria may have arisen as a consequence of population bottlenecks. Migration, or population mixing, cannot be excluded as the process generating the disequilibria in the wild samples, but can in the experimental populations. We conclude that linkage disequilibrium in these populations is most likely due to natural selection acting on the allozymes, or on loci very tightly linked to them.

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