, Volume 94, Issue 5, pp 360-366
Date: 23 Jan 2007

The importance of heterozygosity in a frog’s life

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High genetic variability may increase metabolic efficiency and thus allows responding to environmental challenges as limits to adaptation are approached. Therefore, it has been suggested that high genetic variability contributes strongly to the fitness of an individual. Survival to high age may thus depend on high genetic variability, and genetically variable individuals may have a higher survival rate to high ages in comparison to less variable sympatric conspecifics. Such a heterozygosity × age relationship might be more readily detectable in stressful as compared to benign environments. For testing the relationship between age and heterozygosity, we genetically analyzed 71 individuals of the frog species Rana perezi from a total of seven populations at 13 allozyme loci. The age of the individuals was determined by skeletochronology. We found effects on age of both environment and allozyme heterozygosity, especially in populations with high stress regimes. A significant heterozygosity × age relationship has so far rarely been shown in natural populations. The result of our analysis suggests that more heterozygous individuals have a higher longevity and may be an important source of genetic variability of a population, likely contributing to a stabilization of the effective population size.