Journal of Community Genetics

, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 23–28 | Cite as

How obedience of marriage rules may counteract genetic drift

Original article

Abstract

Marriage rules are a common component of many human societies. Since these rules, translated into mating patterns, would imply inbreeding, the question arises as to their long-term population genetic effects. We show by simulation that continuous unilateral or bilateral cross-cousin mating, reflecting the most common form of prescribed marriage, increases homozygosity but at the same time slows down considerably the loss of gene diversity due to genetic drift. For X-chromosomal genes, this effect is more pronounced if marriage, translated into mating, is matrilateral rather than patrilateral. Although the maintenance of gene diversity, in principle, could have conferred a selective advantage to the initiation of marriage rules, the mechanisms driving such a move are difficult to perceive. We therefore conclude that the possible preservation of gene diversity through marriage rule-induced inbreeding is a by-product, not the source, of a cultural invention that instead rested on foresight and strategic thinking.

Keywords

Marriage rule Population genetics Inbreeding Genetic drift Social evolution Gene diversity 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für Medizinische Informatik und StatistikChristian-Albrechts-Universität zu KielKielGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Social and Cultural AnthropologyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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