Accounting for additive genetic mutations on litter size in Ripollesa sheep

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Little is known about mutational variability in livestock, among which only a few mutations with relatively large effects have been reported. In this manuscript, mutational variability was analyzed in 1,765 litter size records from 404 Ripollesa ewes to characterize the magnitude of this genetic source of variation and check the suitability of including mutational effects in genetic evaluations of this breed. Threshold animal models accounting for additive genetic mutations were preferred to models without mutational contributions, with an average difference in the deviance information criterion of more than 5 units. Moreover, the statistical relevance of the additive genetic mutation term was checked through a Bayes factor approach, which showed that the models with mutational variability were 8.5 to 22.7 times more probable than the others. The mutational heritability (percentage of the phenotypic variance accounted for by mutational variance) was 0.6 or 0.9%, depending on whether genetic dominance effects were accounted for by the analytical model. The inclusion of mutational effects in the genetic model for evaluating litter size in Ripollesa ewes called for some minor modifications in the genetic merit order of the individuals evaluated, which suggested that the continuous uploading of new additive mutations could be taken into account to optimize the selection scheme. This study is the first attempt to estimate mutational variances in a livestock species and thereby contribute to better characterization of the genetic background of productive traits of interest. © 2010 American Society of Animal Science.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1248-1255
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2010


  • Animal breeding
  • Genetic variability
  • Litter size
  • Mutation
  • Ripollesa breed


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