Selection, linkage, and population structure interact to shape genetic variation among threespine stickleback genomes

Thomas C. Nelson, Johnathan G. Crandall, Catherine M. Ituarte, Julian M. Catchen, William A. Cresko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The outcome of selection on genetic variation depends on the geographic organization of individuals and populations as well as the organization of loci within the genome. Spatially variable selection between marine and freshwater habitats has had a significant and heterogeneous impact on patterns of genetic variation across the genome of threespine stickleback fish. When marine stickleback invade freshwater habitats, more than a quarter of the genome can respond to divergent selection, even in as little as 50 years. This process largely uses standing genetic variation that can be found ubiquitously at low frequency in marine populations, can be millions of years old, and is likely maintained by significant bidirectional gene flow. Here, we combine population genomic data of marine and freshwater stickleback from Cook Inlet, Alaska, with genetic maps of stickleback fish derived from those same populations to examine how linkage to loci under selection affects genetic variation across the stickleback genome. Divergent selection has had opposing effects on linked genetic variation on chromosomes from marine and freshwater stickleback populations: near loci under selection, marine chromosomes are depauperate of variation, while these same regions among freshwater genomes are the most genetically diverse. Forward genetic simulations recapitulate this pattern when different selective environments also differ in population structure. Lastly, dense genetic maps demonstrate that the interaction between selection and population structure may impact large stretches of the stickleback genome. These findings advance our understanding of how the structuring of populations across geography influences the outcomes of selection, and how the recombination landscape broadens the genomic reach of selection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1367-1382
Number of pages16
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2019


  • Adaptation
  • Gasterosteus aculeatus
  • Linked selection
  • Population genomics
  • Recombination
  • Threespine stickleback

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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