The term “differential dominance” describes the situation in which the dominance effects at a pleiotropic locus vary between traits. Directional selection on the phenotype can lead to balancing selection on differentially dominant pleiotropic loci. Even without any individual overdominant traits, some linear combination of traits will display overdominance at a locus displaying differential dominance. Multivariate overdominance may be responsible, in part, for high levels of heterozygosity found in natural populations. We examine differential dominance of 70 mouse skeletal traits at 92 quantitative trait loci (QTL). Our results indicate moderate to strong additive and dominance effects at pleiotropic loci, low levels of individual-trait overdominance, and universal multivariate overdominance. Multivariate overdominance affects a range of 6% to 81% of morphospace, with a mean of 32%. Multivariate overdominance tends to affect a larger percentage of morphospace at pleiotropic loci with antagonistic effects on multiple traits (42%). We conclude that multivariate overdominance is common and should be considered in models and in empirical studies of the role of genetic variation in evolvability.
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Vol. 63 • No. 7