Skin color is a polygenically determined quantitative trait. Although it has been used extensively in studies of between-population variation, there have been relatively few studies of the inheritance of skin color. In this article we use measurements on 359 members of the Jirel population of eastern Nepal to assess the heritabilities and additive genetic correlations of three skin reflectance measures. Skin color was measured at the upper inner arm site at three wavelengths. A maximum likelihood approach was used to estimate sex and age effects on skin reflectance, heritabilities, and phenotypic variances at each wavelength and both additive genetic and environmental correlations between wavelengths. This technique incorporated information from 36 pedigrees with 2 -2 5 members and 173 independent individuals. Likelihood ratio tests were used to assess the significance of specific variance/covariance components. The results indicate that skin reflectances are moderately heritable at all three wavelengths. The pairwise phenotypic correlations ranged from 0.76 to 0.88. The observed additive genetic correlations were not significantly different from 1.00, suggesting that the same loci influence variation at each wavelength. This evidence for relatively complete pleiotropy implies that measurements at multiple wavelengths yield little additional genetic information, although they may be useful for reducing measurement error. Based on estimates of the genetic and phenotypic covariance matrices, we determined that skin reflectance measurements are expected to provide only as much information for assessing local between-population genetic variation as a single two-allele polymorphic marker. Therefore microevolutionary studies based on skin color variation should be viewed with caution.
Williams-Blangero, S and Blangero, J
"Quantitative Genetic Analysis of Skin Reflectance: A Multivariate Approach,"
1, Article 4.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/humbiol/vol64/iss1/4