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Keywords:

  • quantitative genetics;
  • life-history traits;
  • Papio hamadryas anubis

Abstract

The evolution of life history traits is a topic of growing interest in primatology. Traits associated with fertility, such as age at menarche and age at first birth, have great significance for natural selection, and knowing the genetic basis of such demographic traits may improve our understanding of population dynamics. Knowledge of the heritability of reproductive traits may also have practical implications for the management of captive breeding colonies.

A maximum likelihood method was used to estimate heritability of age at first birth for a sample of female olive baboons resident at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research. Only animals born at the Foundation that were caged in mixed sex groups and that had previously given birth were included in the sample (n = 316). There were 117 independent individuals and 199 individuals in 35 pedigrees composed of 2 to 26 members. Age at first birth ranged from 3.85 years to 13.11 years.

Age at first birth is highly heritable (h2 = 0.87) with no evidence for maternal effects or a dominance genetic component. This level of genetic variability in a fitness-related trait is contrary to evolutionary expectation and may reflect the uniform environment of a captive breeding situation. Thus, the heritability observed in this population may be taken as an upper bound for that in natural populations. © 1995 Wiley-Liss, Inc.