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Heritability of resting metabolic rate in a wild population of blue tits.

  • Jan-Åke Nilsson
  • Mikael Åkesson
  • Johan Nilsson
Publishing year: 2009
Language: English
Pages: 1867-1874
Publication/Series: Journal of evolutionary biology
Volume: 22
Issue: 9
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: John Wiley & Sons

Abstract english

We report the first study with the aim to estimate heritability in a wild population, a nest box breeding population of blue tits. We estimated heritability as well as genetic and phenotypic correlations of resting metabolic rate (RMR), body mass and tarsus length with an animal model based on data from a split cross-fostering experiment with brood size manipulations. RMR and body mass, but not tarsus length, showed significant levels of explained variation but for different underlying reasons. In body mass, the contribution to the explained variation is mainly because of a strong brood effect, while in RMR it is mainly because of a high heritability. The additive variance in RMR was significant and the heritability was estimated to 0.59. The estimates of heritability of body mass (0.08) and tarsus length (0.00) were both low and based on nonsignificant additive variances. Thus, given the low heritability (and additive variances) in body mass and tarsus length the potential for direct selection on RMR independent of the two traits is high in this population. However, the strong phenotypic correlation between RMR and mass (0.643 +/- 0.079) was partly accounted for by a potentially strong, although highly uncertain, genetic correlation (1.178 +/- 0.456) between the two traits. This indicates that the additive variance of body mass, although low, might still somewhat constrain the independent evolvability of RMR.


  • Biological Sciences


  • ISSN: 1420-9101