Heterozygosity, inbreeding and neonatal traits in Soay sheep on St Kilda

Andrew Overall, K.A. Byrne, J.G. Pilkington, J.M. Pemberton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We investigated whether birth weight and neonatal survival, a period within which 24% of all mortalities occur, were correlated with levels of inbreeding in St Kilda Soay sheep, using pedigree inbreeding coefficients and four marker-based estimators of inbreeding. None of the inbreeding estimators, either of the offspring, or of their mothers, explained significant variation in a lamb's birth weight or probability of surviving the neonatal period, suggesting low inbreeding depression for these traits. We evaluated the correlation between the marker-based measures of inbreeding and inbreeding coefficients obtained from the Soay pedigree, where paternal links were inferred using the same panel of microsatellite markers. Even when using a relatively complete portion of the pedigree, in which all individuals had known maternal and paternal grandparents, the correlation was found to be weak (r = −0.207, where mean f = 0.0168). These results add support to the recent prediction that when the mean and variance in inbreeding are low in a population, heterozygosity–fitness correlations can be very weak or even undetectable. The pursuit of more detailed pedigrees offers the best prospect for identifying inbreeding depression within this study population.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3383-3393
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2005


  • birth weight
  • heterozygosity–fitness correlation
  • inbreeding depression
  • microsatellite
  • neonatal survival
  • Soay sheep


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