Sex without sex chromosomes: genetic architecture of multiple loci independently segregating to determine sex ratios in the copepodTigriopus californicus

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Sex-determining systems are remarkably diverse and may evolve rapidly. Polygenic sex-determination systems are predicted to be transient and evolutionarily unstable, yet examples have been reported across a range of taxa. Here, we provide the first direct evidence of polygenic sex determination in Tigriopus californicus, a harpacticoid copepod with no heteromorphic sex chromosomes. Using genetically distinct inbred lines selected for male- and female-biased clutches, we generated a genetic map with 39 SNPs across 12 chromosomes. Quantitative trait locus mapping of sex ratio phenotype (the proportion of male offspring produced by an F2 female) in four F2 families revealed six independently segregating quantitative trait loci on five separate chromosomes, explaining 19% of the variation in sex ratios. The sex ratio phenotype varied among loci across chromosomes in both direction and magnitude, with the strongest phenotypic effects on chromosome 10 moderated to some degree by loci on four other chromosomes. For a given locus, sex ratio phenotype varied in magnitude for individuals derived from different dam lines. These data, together with the environmental factors known to contribute to sex determination, characterize the underlying complexity and potential lability of sex determination, and confirm the polygenic architecture of sex determination in T. californicus.

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