An ecologist’s guide to the animal model
Article first published online: 11 DEC 2009
© 2009 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2009 British Ecological Society
Journal of Animal Ecology
Volume 79, Issue 1, pages 13–26, January 2010
How to Cite
Wilson, A. J., Réale, D., Clements, M. N., Morrissey, M. M., Postma, E., Walling, C. A., Kruuk, L. E. B. and Nussey, D. H. (2010), An ecologist’s guide to the animal model. Journal of Animal Ecology, 79: 13–26. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2656.2009.01639.x
- Issue published online: 11 DEC 2009
- Article first published online: 11 DEC 2009
- Received 7 July 2009; accepted 29 October 2009 Handling Editor: Ken Wilson
Vol. 80, Issue 5, 1109, Article first published online: 26 JUL 2011
- animal model;
- genetic correlation;
- mixed-effect model;
- natural selection;
- quantitative genetics
1. Efforts to understand the links between evolutionary and ecological dynamics hinge on our ability to measure and understand how genes influence phenotypes, fitness and population dynamics. Quantitative genetics provides a range of theoretical and empirical tools with which to achieve this when the relatedness between individuals within a population is known.
2. A number of recent studies have used a type of mixed-effects model, known as the animal model, to estimate the genetic component of phenotypic variation using data collected in the field. Here, we provide a practical guide for ecologists interested in exploring the potential to apply this quantitative genetic method in their research.
3. We begin by outlining, in simple terms, key concepts in quantitative genetics and how an animal model estimates relevant quantitative genetic parameters, such as heritabilities or genetic correlations.
4. We then provide three detailed example tutorials, for implementation in a variety of software packages, for some basic applications of the animal model. We discuss several important statistical issues relating to best practice when fitting different kinds of mixed models.
5. We conclude by briefly summarizing more complex applications of the animal model, and by highlighting key pitfalls and dangers for the researcher wanting to begin using quantitative genetic tools to address ecological and evolutionary questions.