Kazancıoğlu E, Arnqvist G
Ecol. Lett. 17 (1) 22-27 [2014-01-00; online 2013-10-19]
Mitochondrial genes generally show high levels of standing genetic variation, which is puzzling given the accumulating evidence for phenotypic effects of mitochondrial genetic variation. Negative frequency-dependent selection, where the relative fitness of a genotype is inversely related to its frequency in a population, provides a potent and potentially general process that can maintain mitochondrial polymorphism. We assessed the change in mitochondrial haplotype frequencies over 10 generations of experimental evolution in 180 seed beetle populations in the laboratory, where haplotypes competed for propagation to subsequent generations. We found that haplotypes consistently increased in frequency when they were initially rare and decreased in frequency when initially common. Our results have important implications for the use of mtDNA haplotype frequency data to infer population level processes and they revive the general hypothesis that negative frequency-dependent selection, presumably caused by habitat heterogeneity, may commonly promote polymorphism in ecologically relevant life history genes.