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Expression of Genetic Variation in Body Size of the Collared Flycatcher Under Different Environmental Conditions

Juha Merilä
Evolution
Vol. 51, No. 2 (Apr., 1997), pp. 526-536
DOI: 10.2307/2411125
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2411125
Page Count: 11
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Expression of Genetic Variation in Body Size of the Collared Flycatcher Under Different Environmental Conditions
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Abstract

Heritability of body size in two experimentally created environments, representing good and poor feeding conditions, respectively, was estimated using cross-fostered collared flycatcher Ficedula albicollis nestlings. Young raised under poor feeding conditions attained smaller body size (tarsus length) than their full-sibs raised under good feeding conditions. Parent-offspring regressions revealed lower heritability (h2) of body size under poor than under good feeding conditions. Hence, as the same set of parents were used in the estimation of h2 in both environments, this suggests environment-dependent change in additive genetic component of variance (VA), or that the genetic correlation between parental and poor offspring environment was less than that between parental and good offspring environment. However, full-sib analyses failed to find evidence for genotype-environment interactions, although the power of these tests might have been low. Full-sib heritabilities in both environments tended to be higher than estimates from parent-offspring regressions, indicating that prehatching or early posthatching common environment/maternal effects might have inflated full-sib estimates of VA. The effect of sibling competition on estimates of VA was probably small as the nestling size-hierarchy at day 2 posthatch was not generally correlated with size-hierarchy at fledging. Furthermore, there was no correlation between maternal body condition during the incubation and final size of offspring, indicating that direct maternal effects related to nutritional status were small. A review of earlier quantitative genetic studies of body size variation in birds revealed that in eight of nine cases, heritability of body size was lower in poor than in good environmental conditions. The main implication of this relationship will be a decreased evolutionary response to selection under poor environmental conditions. On the other hand, this will retard the loss of genetic variation by reducing the accuracy of selection and might help explain the moderate to high heritabilities of body-size traits under good environmental conditions.

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