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The Genetics of a Naturally Occurring Coat-Color Mutation in the California Vole

William Z. Lidicker, Jr.
Evolution
Vol. 17, No. 3 (Sep., 1963), pp. 340-346
DOI: 10.2307/2406163
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2406163
Page Count: 7
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The Genetics of a Naturally Occurring Coat-Color Mutation in the California Vole
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Abstract

A new pelage-color mutation discovered in a recently established population of voles (Microtus californicus) living on a 55-acre island in San Francisco Bay is described. Both qualitative and quantitative changes occur in the dorsal hairs. Reduced eumelanin deposition changes the black hair bases to gray and greatly lightens the pale gray tips; the yellow band is converted to brown. This produces a non-grizzled smooth brown pelage termed buff. Breeding experiments have established that this condition is due to a single recessive allele (bf) which is tentatively assigned to the extension (e) locus. Two pleiotropic or possibly linked effects on reproductive performance are evident. Buff females exhibit an average litter size of 2.50 (range 1-4), whereas agouti females have 4.51 young per litter (range 1-9). No effect on litter size is evidenced by the buff males. The second presumed pleiotropic effect is a significant reduction in the production of heterozygous females by homozygous wild-type mothers. No differences in survival to birth or weaning, longevity, or in the size and growth rate of 13 morphological features could be detected among the various genotypes. The existence of pleiotropic complexes such as the one suggested here should be of interest to both the taxonomist who often must judge genetic relationships entirely with morphological evidence, and to the ecologist who may wish to understand how environmental forces impose selection on complex loci in genetically heterogeneous populations living under non-uniform conditions.

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