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Keywords:

  • Quantitative genetics;
  • selection;
  • heritability;
  • trade-offs;
  • birds.

Abstract

The phenotypic view of selection assumes that genetic responses can be predicted from selective forces and heritability — or in the classical quantitative genetic equation: R = h2S. However, data on selection in bird populations show that often no selection responses is found, despite consistent selective forces on phenotypes and significant heritable variation. Such discrepancies may arise due to the assumption that selection only acts on observed phenotypes. We derive a general selection equation that takes into account the possibility that some relevant (internal or external) traits are not measured. This equation shows that the classic equation applies if selection directly acts on the measured, phenotypic traits. This is not the case when, for instance, there are unknown internal genetic trade-offs, or unknown common environmental factors affecting both trait and fitness. In such cases, any relationship between phenotypic selection and genetic response is possible. Fortunately, the classical model can be tested by comparing phenotypic and genetic covariances between traits and fitness; an indication that important internal or external traits are missing can thus be obtained. Such an analysis was indeed found in the literature; for selection on fledging weight in Great Tits it yielded valuable extra information.