RAD-sequencing for estimating GRM-based heritability in the wild: a case study in roe deer

L Gervais, C Perrier, M Bernard, J Merlet, Josephine Pemberton, B Pujol, E Quéméré

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Estimating the evolutionary potential of quantitative traits and reliably predicting responses to selection in wild populations are important challenges in evolutionary biology. The genomic revolution has opened up opportunities for measuring relatedness among individuals with precision, enabling pedigree-free estimation of trait heritabilities in wild populations. However, until now, most quantitative genetic studies based on a genomic relatedness matrix (GRM) have focused on long-term monitored populations for which traditional pedigrees were also available, and have often had access to knowledge of genome sequence and variability. Here, we investigated the potential of RAD-sequencing for estimating heritability in a free-ranging roe deer population for which no prior genomic resources were available. We propose a step-by-step analytical framework to optimize the quality and quantity of the genomic data and explore the impact of the SNP calling and filtering processes on the GRM structure and GRM-based heritability estimates. As expected, our results show that sequence coverage strongly affects the number of recovered loci, the genotyping error rate and the amount of missing data. Ultimately, this had little effect on heritability estimates and their standard errors, provided that the GRM was built from a minimum number of loci (above 7000). GRM-based heritability estimates thus appear robust to a moderate level of genotyping errors in the SNP dataset. We also showed that quality filters, such as the removal of low-frequency variants, affect the relatedness structure of the GRM, generating lower estimates. Our work illustrates the huge potential of RAD-sequencing for estimating GRM-based heritability in virtually any natural population. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular Ecology Resources
Early online date6 May 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 May 2019


  • Genomic relatedness matrix
  • Animal model
  • RAD-sequencing
  • Pedigree-free quantitative genetics,
  • Capreolous capreolus


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