Parentage analysis with genetic markers in natural populations. I. The expected proportion of offspring with unambiguous paternity

R. Chakraborty, T. R. Meagher, P. E. Smouse

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Recent studies indicate that polymorphic genetic markers are potentially helpful in resolving genealogical relationships among individuals in a natural population. Genetic data provide opportunities for paternity exclusion when genotypic incompatibilities are observed among individuals, and the present investigation examines the resolving power of genetic markers in unambiguous positive determination of paternity. Under the assumption that the mother for each offspring in a population is unambiguously known, an analytical expression for the fraction of males excluded from paternity is derived for the case where males and females may be derived from two different gene pools. This theoretical formulation can also be used to predict the fraction of births for each of which all but one male can be excluded from paternity. We show that even when the average probability of exclusion approaches unity, a substantial fraction of births yield equivocal mother-father-offspring determinations. The number of loci needed to increase the frequency of unambiguous determinations to a high level is beyond the scope of current electrophoretic studies in most species. Applications of this theory to electrophoretic data on Chamaelirium luteum (L.) shows that in 2255 offspring derived from 273 males and 70 females, only 57 triplets could be unequivocally determined with eight polymorphic protein loci, even though the average combined exclusionary power of these loci was 73%. The distribution of potentially compatible male parents, based on multilocus genotypes, was reasonably well predicted from the allele frequency data available for these loci. We demonstrate that genetic paternity analysis in natural populations cannot be reliably based on exclusionary principles alone. In order to measure the reproductive contributions of individuals in natural populations, more elaborate likelihood principles must be deployed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)527-536
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1988
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics


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