Mitogenomic analysis of a 50-generation chicken pedigree reveals a rapid rate of mitochondrial evolution and evidence for paternal mtDNA inheritance. Academic Article uri icon


  • Mitochondrial genomes represent a valuable source of data for evolutionary research, but studies of their short-term evolution have typically been limited to invertebrates, humans and laboratory organisms. Here we present a detailed study of 12 mitochondrial genomes that span a total of 385 transmissions in a well-documented 50-generation pedigree in which two lineages of chickens were selected for low and high juvenile body weight. These data allowed us to test the hypothesis of time-dependent evolutionary rates and the assumption of strict maternal mitochondrial transmission, and to investigate the role of mitochondrial mutations in determining phenotype. The identification of a non-synonymous mutation in ND4L and a synonymous mutation in CYTB, both novel mutations in Gallus, allowed us to estimate a molecular rate of 3.13 10(-7) mutations/site/year (95% confidence interval 3.75 10(-8)-1.12 10(-6)). This is substantially higher than avian rate estimates based upon fossil calibrations. Ascertaining which of the two novel mutations was present in an additional 49 individuals also revealed an instance of paternal inheritance of mtDNA. Lastly, an association analysis demonstrated that neither of the point mutations was strongly associated with the phenotypic differences between the two selection lines. Together, these observations reveal the highly dynamic nature of mitochondrial evolution over short time periods.

published proceedings

  • Biol Lett

altmetric score

  • 87.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Alexander, M., Ho, S., Molak, M., Barnett, R., Carlborg, ., Dorshorst, B., ... Larson, G.

citation count

  • 31

complete list of authors

  • Alexander, Michelle||Ho, Simon YW||Molak, Martyna||Barnett, Ross||Carlborg, Örjan||Dorshorst, Ben||Honaker, Christa||Besnier, Francois||Wahlberg, Per||Dobney, Keith||Siegel, Paul||Andersson, Leif||Larson, Greger

publication date

  • October 2015