Inheritance of size and shape in a natural population of collared flycatchers, Ficedula albicollis

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Abstract

Four external skeletal and three feather dimensions were measured on adult collared flycatchers (Ficedula albicollis) and their adult offspring. By using mid-offspring-midparent regressions, all traits were found to be heritable with an arithmetic mean heritability of 0.46. Heritability estimates from full-sib analyses were about 1.5 times higher (mean 0.67), indicating that variation in traits was affected by shared nest environment among full-sibs. The overall body size as measured by principal component one (PC1) was found to be heritable (h2 = 0.40). However, this multivariate measure of heritability was not significant in offspring-father comparison, while highly so in offspring-mother comparison (h2 = 0.60). Low offspring-father resemblance was evident also in univariate estimates of heritability. Possible causes of this (extra-pair copulations, maternal effects, sex-linked variance) are discussed.

Genetic correlations among seven traits were estimated to be low (mean 0.22), and of similar magnitude or higher than phenotypic correlations (mean 0.18). All genetic correlations were positive. Genetic and phenotypic correlations as well as covariances were fairly similar to each other (r = 0.85 and r = 0.87, respectively). Environmental correlations did not follow the pattern of genetic correlations (r = 0.11), but were more similar to phenotypic correlations (r = 0.60). Given the low genetic correlations and moderate heritabilities, the overall conclusion is that the external morphology of collared flycatchers is largely under additive genetic control and that there is a strong potential for evolutionary change in morphology even under complex multivariate selection.

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