Nevin Manimala Statistics

The paradox of adaptive trait clines with nonclinal patterns in the underlying genes

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2023 Mar 21;120(12):e2220313120. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2220313120. Epub 2023 Mar 14.


Multivariate climate change presents an urgent need to understand how species adapt to complex environments. Population genetic theory predicts that loci under selection will form monotonic allele frequency clines with their selective environment, which has led to the wide use of genotype-environment associations (GEAs). This study used a set of simulations to elucidate the conditions under which allele frequency clines are more or less likely to evolve as multiple quantitative traits adapt to multivariate environments. Phenotypic clines evolved with nonmonotonic (i.e., nonclinal) patterns in allele frequencies under conditions that promoted unique combinations of mutations to achieve the multivariate optimum in different parts of the landscape. Such conditions resulted from interactions among landscape, demography, pleiotropy, and genetic architecture. GEA methods failed to accurately infer the genetic basis of adaptation under a range of scenarios due to first principles (clinal patterns did not evolve) or statistical issues (clinal patterns evolved but were not detected due to overcorrection for structure). Despite the limitations of GEAs, this study shows that a back-transformation of multivariate ordination can accurately predict individual multivariate traits from genotype and environmental data regardless of whether inference from GEAs was accurate. In addition, frameworks are introduced that can be used by empiricists to quantify the importance of clinal alleles in adaptation. This research highlights that multivariate trait prediction from genotype and environmental data can lead to accurate inference regardless of whether the underlying loci display clinal or nonmonotonic patterns.

PMID:36917658 | DOI:10.1073/pnas.2220313120

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