Inheritance of body size in the Barnacle Goose under different environmental conditions



Heritabilities, genetic variances and covariances for body size traits, i.e. tarsus length, head length and body mass, were estimated under different environmental conditions in a Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis) population. Under poor growth conditions, that is, when average body size of fully grown offspring in a given cohort was small, the offspring-parent regressions and full-sib analyses yielded heritability estimates not significantly different from zero. By contrast, when growth conditions were normal or good the heritability estimates were generally significantly positive. Comparisons of genetic covariance estimates indicated that they also differed across the analysed environmental conditions. This result, together with similar results obtained in studies of passerine birds, suggests that genotype-environment interactions might be frequent within the range of environments normally encountered by birds in natural populations. If general, such results might question the validity of assuming approximate constancy of additive genetic variances and covariances over time and environments in evolutionary models.