Frequency-dependent disruptive selection is widely recognized as an important source of genetic variation. Its evolutionary consequences have been extensively studied using phenotypic evolutionary models, based on quantitative genetics, game theory, or adaptive dynamics. However, the genetic assumptions underlying these approaches are highly idealized and, even worse, predict different consequences of frequency-dependent disruptive selection. Population genetic models, by contrast, enable genotypic evolutionary models, but traditionally assume constant fitness values. Only a minority of these models thus addresses frequency-dependent selection, and only a few of these do so in a multilocus context. An inherent limitation of these remaining studies is that they only investigate the short-term maintenance of genetic variation. Consequently, the long-term evolution of multilocus characters under frequency-dependent disruptive selection remains poorly understood. We aim to bridge this gap between phenotypic and genotypic models by studying a multilocus version of Levene's soft-selection model. Individual-based simulations and deterministic approximations based on adaptive dynamics theory provide insights into the underlying evolutionary dynamics. Our analysis uncovers a general pattern of polymorphism formation and collapse, likely to apply to a wide variety of genetic systems: after convergence to a fitness minimum and the subsequent establishment of genetic polymorphism at multiple loci, genetic variation becomes increasingly concentrated on a few loci, until eventually only a single polymorphic locus remains. This evolutionary process combines features observed in quantitative genetics and adaptive dynamics models, and it can be explained as a consequence of changes in the selection regime that are inherent to frequency-dependent disruptive selection. Our findings demonstrate that the potential of frequency-dependent disruptive selection to maintain polygenic variation is considerably smaller than previously expected.
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Vol. 60 • No. 11