Genotyping-by-sequencing for estimating relatedness in nonmodel organisms: Avoiding the trap of precise bias

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32 Citations (Scopus)


There has been remarkably little attention to using the high resolution provided by genotyping-by-sequencing (i.e., RADseq and similar methods) for assessing relatedness in wildlife populations. A major hurdle is the genotyping error, especially allelic dropout, often found in this type of data that could lead to downward-biased, yet precise, estimates of relatedness. Here, we assess the applicability of genotyping-by-sequencing for relatedness inferences given its relatively high genotyping error rate. Individuals of known relatedness were simulated under genotyping error, allelic dropout and missing data scenarios based on an empirical ddRAD data set, and their true relatedness was compared to that estimated by seven relatedness estimators. We found that an estimator chosen through such analyses can circumvent the influence of genotyping error, with the estimator of Ritland (Genetics Research, 67, 175) shown to be unaffected by allelic dropout and to be the most accurate when there is genotyping error. We also found that the choice of estimator should not rely solely on the strength of correlation between estimated and true relatedness as a strong correlation does not necessarily mean estimates are close to true relatedness. We also demonstrated how even a large SNP data set with genotyping error (allelic dropout or otherwise) or missing data still performs better than a perfectly genotyped microsatellite data set of tens of markers. The simulation-based approach used here can be easily implemented by others on their own genotyping-by-sequencing data sets to confirm the most appropriate and powerful estimator for their data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-390
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Ecology Resources
Issue number3
Early online date21 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - May 2018


  • double-digest restriction site-associated DNA
  • low coverage
  • next-generation sequencing
  • pedigree
  • population genomics
  • relationships


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