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Letters to Nature
Nature 265, 46 - 47 (06 January 1977); doi:10.1038/265046a0

Polygamy and genetic equilibrium

G. E. BONNEY & F. I. D. KONOTEY-AHULU

Ghana Institute of Clinical Genetics, PO Box 150, Korle Bu Accra, Ghana

POLYGAMY is the normal practice in indigenous African and Islamic populations. Recently Konotey-Ahulu1 has claimed that polygamy may explain the persistence of some abnormal haemoglobins in these populations. The generally accepted view is that the maintenance of balanced polymorphism in these populations at the loci of the commonest hereditary erythrocyte defects is due to a lesser susceptibility of the heterozygote2–7. An examination of that claim using a mathematical model shows that polygamy can lead to an equilibrium distribution in gene frequencies only if the male heterozygote tends to acquire more wives than either homozygote—a condition that is shown not to be unlikely in African and Islamic populations.

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References

1. Konotey-Ahulu, F. I. D., J. trop. Med. Hyg., 73, 19–21 (1970).
2. Beet, E. A., E. Afr. med. J., 23, 75–86 (1946).
3. Beet, E. A., E. Afr. med. J., 24, 212–222 (1947).
4. Raper, A. B., E. Afr. med. J., 26, 281–282 (1949).
5. Brain, P., S. Afr. med. J., 26, 925–928 (1952).
6. Neel, J. V., Am. J. hum. Genet., 5, 154–157 (1953).
7. Allison, A. C., Ann. hum. Genet., 19, 39–57 (1954).
8. Fisher, R. A., Proc. R. Soc., Edin., 42, 321–341 (1922).
9. Owen, A. R. G., Nature, 170, 1127 (1952).
10. Owen, A. R. G., Heredity, 7, 103–107 (1953).
11. Mandel, S. P. H., Heredity, 26, 49–63 (1971).
12. Konotey-Ahulu, F. I. D., University of Ghana Population Studies, 4, 215–233 (1972).



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