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Contrasting results from GWAS and QTL mapping on wing length in great reed warblers

  • Bengt Hansson
  • Hanna Sigeman
  • Martin Stervander
  • Maja Tarka
  • Suvi Ponnikas
  • Maria Strandh
  • Helena Westerdahl
  • Dennis Hasselquist
Publishing year: 2018-07
Language: English
Pages: 867-876
Publication/Series: Molecular Ecology Resources
Volume: 18
Issue: 4
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

Abstract english

A major goal in evolutionary biology is to understand the genetic basis of adaptive traits. In migratory birds, wing morphology is such a trait. Our previous work on the great reed warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) shows that wing length is highly heritable and under sexually antagonistic selection. Moreover, a quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping analysis detected a pronounced QTL for wing length on chromosome 2, suggesting that wing morphology is partly controlled by genes with large effects. Here, we re-evaluate the genetic basis of wing length in great reed warblers using a genomewide association study (GWAS) approach based on restriction site-associated DNA sequencing (RADseq) data. We use GWAS models that account for relatedness between individuals and include covariates (sex, age and tarsus length). The resulting association landscape was flat with no peaks on chromosome 2 or elsewhere, which is in line with expectations for polygenic traits. Analysis of the distribution of p-values did not reveal biases, and the inflation factor was low. Effect sizes were however not uniformly distributed on some chromosomes, and the Z chromosome had weaker associations than autosomes. The level of linkage disequilibrium (LD) in the population decayed to background levels within c. 1 kbp. There could be several reasons to why our QTL study and GWAS gave contrasting results including differences in how associations are modelled (cosegregation in pedigree vs. LD associations), how covariates are accounted for in the models, type of marker used (multi- vs. biallelic), difference in power or a combination of these. Our study highlights that the genetic architecture even of highly heritable traits is difficult to characterize in wild populations.


  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Adaptation
  • Association
  • Birds
  • Genotype
  • Phenotype
  • Wing length


  • Centre for Animal Movement Research
  • ISSN: 1755-098X
Dennis Hasselquist
E-mail: dennis [dot] hasselquist [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se



+46 46 222 37 08



Research group


Doctoral students and postdocs

Research fellows


Jacob Roved

PhD Students, main supervisor

PhD Students, assistant supervisor


Interview about my research in the Swedish podcast "Forskarn & jag"