We compared microsatellite polymorphism at nine loci located on chromosome 3 among two colonies and a field population of Anopheles gambiae sensu stricto Giles mosquitoes. Numbers of microsatellite alleles observed at each locus and mean heterozygosities were drastically reduced among laboratory colonies. Genetic analysis of the field population used in this study revealed an unprecedented frequency of rare alleles (<0.05). In contrast, colony samples revealed large numbers of alleles with frequencies >0.50. Partitioning of field data to assess the impact of rare alleles, null alleles, and sample size on estimates of mean heterozygosity revealed the plasticity of this measurement and suggests that heterozygosity may be reliably estimated from relatively small collections using microsatellites.
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