Variance components of sex determination in the copepod Tigriopus californicus estimated from a pedigree analysis




Richardson, Jean M. L.
Alexander, Heather J.
Anholt, Bradley R.

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Ecology and Evolution


Extensive theory exists regarding population sex ratio evolution that predicts equal sex ratio (when parental investment is equal). In most animals, sex chromosomes determine the sex of offspring, and this fixed genotype for sex has made theory difficult to test since genotypic variance for the trait (sex) is lacking. It has long been argued that the genotype has become fixed in most animals due to the strong selection for equal sex ratios. The marine copepod Tigriopus californicus has no sex chromosomes, multiple genes affecting female brood sex ratio, and a brood sex ratio that responds to selection. The species thus provides an opportune system in which to test established sex ratio theory. In this paper, we further our exploration of polygenic sex determination in T. californicus using an incomplete diallel crossing design for analysis of the variance components of sex determination in the species. Our data confirm the presence of extra-binomial variance for sex, further confirming that sex is not determined through simple Mendelian trait inheritance. In addition, our crosses and backcrosses of isofemale lines selected for biased brood sex ratios show intermediate phenotypic means, as expected if sex is a threshold trait determined by an underlying “liability” trait controlled by many genes of small effects. Furthermore, crosses between families from the same selection line had similar increases in phenotypic variance as crosses between families from different selection lines, suggesting families from artificial selection lines responded to selection pressure through different underlying genetic bases. Finally, we estimate heritability of an individual to be male or female on the observed binary scale as 0.09 (95% CI: 0.034–0.14). This work furthers our accumulating evidence for polygenic sex determination in T. californicus laying the foundation for this as a model species in future studies of sex ratio evolution theory.



animal model, polygenic sex determination, sex ratio, threshold trait


Richardson, J. M. L., Alexander, H. J., & Anholt, B. R. (2023). Variance components of sex determination in the copepod Tigriopus californicus estimated from a pedigree analysis. Ecology and Evolution, 13, e9997.