Sex-linked inheritance, genetic correlations and sexual dimorphism in three melanin-based colour traits in the barn owl
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionJournal of Evolutionary Biology. 2015, 28 (3), 655-666. 10.1111/jeb.12596
Theory states that genes on the sex chromosomes have stronger effects on sexual dimorphism than genes on the autosomes. Although empirical data are not necessarily consistent with this theory, this situation may prevail because the relative role of sex-linked and autosomally inherited genes on sexual dimorphism has rarely been evaluated. We estimated the quantitative genetics of three sexually dimorphic melanin-based traits in the barn owl (Tyto alba), in which females are on average darker reddish pheomelanic and display more and larger black eumelanic feather spots than males. The plumage traits with higher sex-linked inheritance showed lower heritability and genetic correlations, but contrary to prediction, these traits showed less pronounced sexual dimorphism. Strong offspring sexual dimorphism primarily resulted from daughters not expressing malelike melanin-based traits and from sons expressing femalelike traits to similar degrees as their sisters. We conclude that in the barn owl, polymorphism at autosomal genes rather than at sex-linked genes generate variation in sexual dimorphism in melanin-based traits.