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On the Low Heritability of Life-History Traits

Trevor Price and Dolph Schluter
Evolution
Vol. 45, No. 4 (Jun., 1991), pp. 853-861
DOI: 10.2307/2409693
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2409693
Page Count: 9
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On the Low Heritability of Life-History Traits
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Abstract

Life-history traits such as longevity and fecundity often show low heritability. This is usually interpreted in terms of Fisher's fundamental theorem to mean that populations are near evolutionary equilibrium and genetic variance in total fitness is low. We develop the causal relationship between metric traits and life-history traits to show that a life-history trait is expected to have a low heritability whether or not the population is at equilibrium. This is because it is subject to all the environmental variation in the metric traits that affect it plus additional environmental variation. There is no simple prediction regarding levels of additive genetic variance in life-history traits, which may be high at equilibrium. Several other patterns in the inheritance of life-history traits are readily predicted from the causal model. These include the strength of genetic correlations between life-history traits, levels of nonadditive genetic variance, and the inevitability of genotype-environment interaction.

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