Quantitative genetics of cranial nonmetric traits in randombred mice: Heritability and etiology



Cheverud and Buikstra (1981) demonstrated a tendency for nonmetric traits representing the number of foramina to have lower heritabilities than those representing hyperstotic or hypostotic traits in a sample of rhesus macaques. Based on this observation, Cheverud and Buikstra hypothesize that differences in the heritability of the two sets of traits may be due to differences in trait etiology. This study addresses the proposed relationship between trait heritability and etiology. Heritability values are calculated for 35 cranial nonmetric traits in a sample of 320 randombred mice using analysis of variance. The results are minimally consistent with the etiological hypothesis, but only 4 of the 35 traits showed statistically significant heritability values. These results are discussed with reference to the assumption that nonmetric traits have a strong genetic component. It is concluded that the developmental pathways that genetic variation traverses before being expressed in the form of nonmetric traits must be understood before variation in nonmetric traits can be used to its fullest potential.