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Genetic determination of height mediated mate choice

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    Rights statement: © 2016 Tenesa et al. Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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Original languageEnglish
Article number269
JournalGenome Biology
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jan 2016


Background: Numerous studies have reported positive correlations among couples for height. This suggests that humans find individuals of similar height attractive. However, the answer to whether the choice of a mate with a similar phenotype is genetically or environmentally determined has been elusive.

Results: Here we provide an estimate of the genetic contribution to height choice in mates in 13,068 genotyped couples. Using a mixed linear model we show that 4.1 % of the variation in the mate height choice is determined by a person’s own genotype, as expected in a model where one’s height determines the choice of mate height. Furthermore, the genotype of an individual predicts their partners’ height in an independent dataset of 15,437 individuals with 13 % accuracy, which is 64 % of the theoretical maximum achievable with a heritability of 0.041. Theoretical predictions suggest that approximately 5 % of the heritability of height is due to the positive covariance between allelic effects at different loci, which is caused by assortative mating. Hence, the coupling of alleles with similar effects could substantially contribute to the missing heritability of height.

Conclusions: These estimates provide new insight into the mechanisms that govern mate choice in humans and warrant the search for the genetic causes of choice of mate height. They have important methodological implications and contribute to the missing heritability debate.

    Research areas

  • Assortative mating, Genome structure, Missing heritability

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